Let’s look at this summer’s great whites

July 29, 2023

The lovely warm weather, constant scary beach news and the rapid approach of “R” months and “arster” season prompt a return to “great whites.” This week we will cast a wide net rather than focusing on one or two varietal wines. Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough NZ has consistently scored 89-90 McD points in the past four vintages. The 2022 is a solid 90 and can be found under $16. Pale yellow, it opens with gooseberry, lime and grapefruit primary aromas, and lemongrass with green pepper hints bouquet. On the palate, bright acidity supports lime, nectarine and trop fruit. Long, clean finish repeats palate notes with a bit of fresh herbs and wet stone flavors. It’s good with crab cakes, clams, oysters, and if you enjoy it, a case might only set you back $153; at $13/bottle it gets 2 price points. Booker Wines My Favorite Neighbor Paso Robles Blanc 2021 snagged a Wine Advocate 97 points in December, and its price jumped from $30 to $36. While I am inclined toward 93 McD, this is still a fair value, especially for those who prefer S. Rhone white blends. It’s blended of Roussanne, Clairette Blanche, Marsanne and Chardonnay, and is a wonderful example of winemakers’ art. Lemon and apple primary aromas are enhanced by pie spice, saline and flinty notes. On the bright palate, the slight saline flavor and acidity support crème fraiche and toffee notes. Winos who enjoy old-style Cali Chardonnay may find this very appealing. Their under-$50 2019 Cab, 94 McD, has plenty of availability in surrounding states. Perhaps your local wine store pal can bring some in.

Talbott Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Chardonnay 2021 is being pushed on sale at $25. Be careful! This is not the $60, 93 McD Talbott Vineyards Sleepy Hollow Block 50 South or the Logan 88 McD bottling. However, it is a value buy. Winemaker Kamee Knutson has been doing an excellent job, and the QPR on the $25 bottle is excellent. Those who enjoy apple, pineapple, creamy chardonnay with caramel, trop fruit and pear flavors will love this with a crab cake or steak fish, 91 McD. Stags’ Leap Winery 2021 hit the McD trifecta with three 90-point varietal choices: Napa Valley Chardonnay $28, Viognier $32, and Sauvignon Blanc $30. Since we are long overdue for a value, quality, Cali Viognier review, here it is: Nectarine, apricot, lime, and floral aromas with a hint of vanilla lead to a creamy, mineral-bright palate supporting honey and damp earthen flavors, 92 McD. Their Chardonnay offers floral, apple, brioche aromas with hazelnut and peach flavors, 90 McD.

Please do not mistake Etude Carneros Pinot Gris 2020 for off-brand Pinot Grigio loading many shelves. Don’t misunderstand. There are many well-made Pinot Grigios, but there are also quite a few sweet, flabby styles around. Jon Priest, winemaker at Etude, gives us a classic look with the newly released 2020. Yes, properly made whites do improve with some aging. Opens to honeysuckle, lanolin and lemon curd aromas; medium body makes this a wonderful summer sipper. On the palate, pears, green apples, limes, bright, chalky minerality with a clean, medium-long finish. Priest recommends a charcuterie board, and on those extremely hot days, that is a fine idea. Recently, Oregon is a good place to search for Pinot Gris. Alexana Terroir Series Willamette 2018, 91 points under $25; and St. Reginals Parish Marigny Carbonic Maceration 2021 under $35 are top picks. Some Oregonians are a bit full of themselves, pricing their top line at the level of Alto Adige. Wise, informed shoppers should look for 2020 PGs labeled Archery Summit Vireton, Cardwell Hill Estate Bottled, Elk Cove Estate, Owen Roe Crawford-Beck Vineyards, Shumaker Tualatin Hills or Chehalem. All are 90+ and around $20. My first choice, 92 McD, $225/case, is Owen Roe Eola-Amity Hills, vintage specific 2020. I chose it because it shows excellent balance, fruit/acidity/hint of sugar, with round mouthfeel and medium body. Fresh almond, green apple and citrus (mostly lemon) aromas open to bright acidity, nectarine and lemon zest flavors. Read label carefully – this is not the 87 McD Owen Roe PG Le Beck Fin from Crawford-Beck Vineyard.


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