Top 10 White Wines of Summer 2011

Yes I know it is September but I also know that there used to be a rule about not wearing white after Labor Day that has long since been forgotten. And much the same I wish most wine drinkers would give up the similar disposition that white wine is for the summer and as the season changes we bid them adieu until the following spring. Now let’s get a couple things out of the way. First, I use to be one of those waving goodbye. In my earliest days I wasn’t a huge fan of whites. Since I have begun to appreciate them as 1) they usually offer great value compared to their red counterparts and 2) there are so many interesting regions and varietals out there to try. Second, it is certainly more compelling to drink red as the weather cools and you can use something heartier but I no longer forget about white like I once did.

With that long winded introduction out of the way let’s get to the point. I enjoyed a lot of white (and rose) wines this summer. For those long time readers you’ll likely be surprised to find that no Trader Joe’s wine made my Top 10. That said there are still three choices under $10 and nothing checks in at over $16. You won’t find the same varietal twice and some like Elbling will be far off the beaten path. Some varietals are entirely missing like Riesling (not happy I somehow forgot to drink this one during the Summer of Riesling). It may be too late for you to run out and grab a bottle to enjoy on a warm summer evening but I wanted to share nonetheless. And just in case I lose you before you get to the end be sure to let me know which wines you enjoyed this most next summer; always looking for good tips! Now let’s get to it…

    2010 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare
  • 2010 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare – What better way to start off the list with a rosé and few are consistently better than this Vin Gris from Bonny Doon. Sure to remind you of the dry rosés from Provence this one is made primarily from Grenache and I can’t get enough (and this holds true for many of the Doon offerings). Great color, great nose and equally as exciting on the palate. This is the definition of $15 well spent.
  • 2010 Trajarinho Vinho Verde – Another long-time favorite of mine this comes from the Adega de Monaco cooperative and continues to deliver the goods. 2010 Trajarinho Vinho VerdeI’ve served this to hundreds of guests over the years (it’s a staple for parties) and have heard nothing but good things in response. Crisp, citric and dry with a slight spritz this one offers a whole lot of refreshment and excitement for just $9. If shopping be sure to grab a bottle of their Muralhas as well.
  • 2010 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc – This is the last in my trio of long-time favorites. Clean, fresh and juicy on the palate with vibrant grapefruit flavors and a racy, stony acidity. It’s hard to find this type of consistency from vintage to vintage for a wine under $10. Worth seeking out and easy to find as it is widely available.
    2009 Franz Etz Gruner Veltliner
  • 2009 Franz Etz Gruner Veltliner – I had my first introduction to Grüner Veltliner last summer and I knew it wouldn’t be my last. Since the Franz Etz has emerged as an early favorite. This one is dry, crisp and refreshing with nice mineral driven acidity and juicy lemon flavors that gently fade into a white pepper finish. Simple, clean and delicious and the fact that it comes in liter bottles makes it fun to boot.
  • 2009 Matthias Dostert Elbling AlvaElbling was a new varietal to me and boy do I love to explore; especially when I find gems like this. Dry and crisp with loads of peaches on the palate before a lively tangy acidity emerges to deliver a refreshing finish. Very little of this varietal, which was once widely planted, is bottled today 2009 Matthias Dostert Elbling Alvawhich makes it obscure and difficult to find which is a shame. Give it a try if you can but if not do me a favor and try a new varietal soon…
  • 2010 Martin & Weyrich Moscato Allegro – Onto my most surprising wine of the summer. Not overly sweet, surprisingly refreshing and only 7.5% ABV. Honeyed peaches on the palate before a light acidity emerges leading to crisp, focused and surprisingly refreshing finish. A versatile wine that is well suited for the patio, as an aperitif or for pairing with a dessert of fresh fruit. Grab a bottle for your next picnic.2010 King Estate Pinot Gris
  • 2010 King Estate Pinot Gris – Those following along know that I spent a few weeks on vacation in Oregon this summer. I tasted through a handful of Pinot Gris while there and found many flabby and lacking the acidity I preferred. That said this one hit the mark. Bright tangerine and lime fruit on the palate with nice mineral acidity that leads to a lively, refreshing finish. Keep an eye out for their Acrobat label as well which checks in under $10 and I hear (but yet to try) delivers a nice value.
    2009 Uvaggio Vermentino

  • 2009 Uvaggio Vermentino – Vermentino is widely found in Italy; not so much so in California but Uvaggio is a winery that focuses on “interesting Italian grape varieties offered at extremely interesting prices” and this one delivers. It greets you with a great multi-layered nose with green apple and floral blossoms. Fresh and bright on the palate with a plush dose of cantaloupe flavors before a nice minerally (with a salty tinge) finish that lingers on refreshingly. This one makes me want to drink more Vermentino.
  • 2010 Blanco Nieva Verdejo – Talk about wanting to drink more of something! If I was only a wine drinker that could be settled down… 2010 Blanco Nieva VerdejoAnother beautiful nose here with intense grassy, grapefruit aromas. Fresh, crisp and vibrant on the palate with zesty lime flavors over a stony, mineral backbone that lead to a dry, refreshing finish. This wine isn’t shy or coy but unabashedly forward with lively acidity and is a perfect match for Ceviche.
  • 2009 Willm Gentil – I sadly didn’t have any of the Navarro Edelzwicker on hand this summer which is a mistake that must soon be corrected. That said this Gentil Willm stood in ably. A blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Muscat this one had a nice floral blossom nose with big white apple and pear flavors 2009 Willm Gentilon the palate that lead to a nice mineral driven acidity on a lasting, ever so slightly sweet, finish. One of my favorite styles to pair with spicy Thai or Chinese dishes this shows equally as well on its own.

So there’s my list. How about you? Have you had any of these? If so what did you think? If not what were your favorite wines from this summer? Let me know in the comments below…

2010 King Estate Pinot Gris

My drinking local series from my family’s summer vacation is winding down as I am now back to work and the kids in school. That said, we saved the best for last. King Estate was founded in 1991 and has 1.000+ acres of organic estate fruit they tend to making Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They are often credited for helping Pinot Gris achieve the recognition it has today. Given that I was keen to see what they could do to my impression of Oregon’s work with the grape…

Price: $13.99

What They Said:

2010 King Estate Pinot GrisPer King Estate (pdf) “Appearance: Light straw with emeral green hue
Aroma: Green apple, citrus, honeysuckle, white peach, apricot, and floral notes
Flavor: Pear, melon, lemon and lime, wet stone, kiwi, honey
Mouthfeel: Soft rich entry, nice texture, good weight, long lively crisp finish”

What I Think:

(13%) Bright tangerine and lime fruit with nice mineral and acidity (with a bit of pepper spice) on the back of the palate. Nice mouth feel; crisp and refreshing with a lively finish with tart green apple and lingering citrus fruit. None of the flabbiness I typically get on your average Oregon Pinot Gris and much more restrained (or is it just “less rich”) as well. At $13 this is money well spent. A nice wine at a reasonable price; replacing the Elk Cove Pinot Gris as the best I’ve had (and my new benchmark) to date from Oregon. I’ll buy again.

Wine Geek Notes: 82,500 cases made, fermented in 100% stainless steel

Rating: Buy It

How about you? Any favorite Pinot Gris from Oregon to share?

2009 Uvaggio Vermentino

Uvaggio is a winery that focuses on “interesting Italian grape varieties offered at extremely interesting prices”. Now that is one way to get my attention in a hurry. Not only is Vermentino their flagship wine, it is more than half of their annual making them the largest producer of the varietal in California. Their take on Vermentino is that if you like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc that you definitely need to give Vermentino a try. I have before, on a limited basis, but was glad to get a chance to do so again. How’d it go?

2009 Uvaggio VermentinoPrice: $14.00 @ via the winery*

What They Said:

Per Uvaggio “We harvested beginning in early Sept, finishing by the end of the month, all at peak maturity – yet at relatively low brix, making this an ideal variety for a lower alcohol wine. All the lots were free-run juice (no pressing) and cool fermented in tank with a fruit enhancing strain of yeast and without a malo-lactic conversion. About 10% was aged in neutral oak for complexity. Post fermentation it was racked twice followed by a light fining, then another racking and filtration prior to bottling.

Our descriptors: fresh and supple; lively yet subtle lime, quince and pear aromas; flavors of melon and stone fruits.”

What I Think:

(11%) Light golden yellowish (reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc). Great nose, multi layered with green apples and floral blossoms. You are going to want to keep your nose in the glass for awhile. Equally as exciting on the palate where it starts fresh and bright before delivering a plush dose of cantaloupe flavors. A smooth, balanced acidity emerges on the mid-palate before a nice salty, saline tinge on a minerally finish that lingers on refreshingly. Makes me want to drink more Vermentino. Perfect as an aperitif on a sunny patio or pair it with the summer fare of your choice. At $14 this one is well worth the price of entry.

Rating: Buy It (another one to add to my list of Summer faves)

*This wine was received as a press sample but I would purchase another bottle with my very own US$ if I see it…

2010 Blanco Nieva Verdejo

My summer Top 10 list rolls on with yet another new grape. Verdejo. For many years Verdejo was used to make an oxidized Sherry-like wine until the 1970′s when Marqués de Riscal paved a new path for a more refreshing offering. A decade later, in the 80′s, these were recognized with DO status and another three decades after that I am first experiencing them. What did I think?

Price: $16.99 @ Vinos Unico imported by Vinos Unico

What They Said:

2010 Blanco Nieva VerdejoPer The Spanish Table “Blanco Nieva is a classic Rueda region white wine made from the indigenous Verdejo grape. Crisp, bright and refreshing, this tank fermented wine will work as a stand alone refresher on a hot day as well as during a meal where it will pair well with salads, egg dishes and all manner of seafood. The vines that produce the fruit for this wine are quite old (40+ years). Some of the vines are planted on original root stock that still thrives in this region thanks to the sandy soils that resisted the phylloxera. blight of the previous century. To taste this wine is to experience the true flavor of Northern Spain.”

What I Think:

(12.5%) 100% Verdejo – Yellowish with a green hue in the glass. What a nose on this beauty! Intense grassy, grapefruit aromas. This one is immediately fresh, crisp and vibrant on the palate with bright, zesty lime flavors over a stony, mineral backbone. Passion fruit emerges on the mid-palate and remains throughout the dry, refreshing finish. This wine isn’t shy. It will smack you over the head and you are going to like what you get. The firm acidity here makes this one a compliment for nearly any food (ceviche would be my first choice). It is also perfectly suited to drink on its own. Pair with a sunny day! I’m getting me some more of this one. Viva Verdejo!

Rating: Wow!

While I’m a big fan of this one it may be a bit hard to find. If you’re itching to try your first Verdejo I’ve also enjoyed the Shaya which seems to be more widely available.

2010 Martin & Weyrich Moscato Allegro

Want to meet the surprise wines of my summer? Yes it might be trying a little too hard to create a niche for itself via their marketing and produce packaging (which I can’t blame them for; needless to say the fact that their online shop routes to “CleverConcepts.com” is fitting). Not overly sweet, surprisingly refreshing and only 7.5% ABV to boot. Available for approximately ~$10 retail this is an interesting wine worthy of your summer consideration…

2010 Martin & Weyrich Moscato AllegroPrice: $10.99 @ Moscato Allegro*

What They Said:

Per Moscato Allergro “Using only the finest Muscat Canelli grapes from our California vineyards, Moscato Allegro is fermented at an extremely cold temperature, creating an elegant wine that dances across the palate with intense fruit, then ends with a crisp, clean finish. Moscato Allegro is fresh and spicy, offering exotic floral and fruit aromas reminiscent of orange blossoms, honeyed apricots and peaches.

Deliciously versatile, Moscato Allegro is lovely on a hot day or a cold night. It is delightfully refreshing on its own, but also makes a wonderful complement to brunch, desserts, spicy dishes and sweet and tangy sauces. Serve as an aperitif, pair with your favorite foods or enjoy all by itself — the possibilities are endless. Salute!”

What I Think:

(7.5%) Honeyed, floral nose with lush fruit. Sweet (without being syrupy or cloying), honeyed peach on the palate. From there a light acidity emerges leading to crisp, focused and surprisingly refreshing finish (I was surely expecting sweet) with the slightest hint of carbonation as it lingers on. Per the winery this one is “fermented at extremely cold temperatures for up to six weeks to retain the natural acidity” which makes a world of difference on this one. My ideal pairing would be with a bowl of ice cream (or pie) topped with fresh fruit. That said I was shocked by this wines versatility as it worked equally well as an aperitif on a warm afternoon. With a low ABV (7.5%) and a screwtop to boot there is a lot to like here; grab a bottle for your next picnic. 40,000 cases made. Geek notes: Total Acid 0.8g/100ml, Residual Sugar 10.35%

Rating: Buy It

*This wine was received as a press sample but I would purchase another bottle with my very own US$ if I see it…

2010 Trajarinho Vinho Verde

Taking a break from Oregon let’s get back to finishing off my Summer Top 10 Whites list. Those paying attention were likely wondering where this one was. A fave in 2009 it seems destined to be so for many years to come. Get it if you can!

Price: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Vinos Unico

What They Said:

2010 Trajarinho Vinho VerdePer K&L Wines “Back again is this delicious vinho verde: fizzy, ripe and juicy, while maintaining a refreshing dryness, warm weather white wine does not get much better than this! This is one of our favorites: crisp, citric, relatively low in alcohol and in a classically dry style. Don’t let the deliciousness fool you, though; this white offers up a whole lot more complexity than the humble price might suggest. More than likely, one could attribute this amazing quality to two factors: First, the rock solid reputation and focus on quality of the Adega Cooperativo Regional de Monçao; and second, their reliance on Trajadura and Alvarinho grapes, which deliver wine of greater complexity and texture than the Paderña grape so commonly grown in the rest of the Vinho Verde region.”

What I Think:

(11.5%) 60% Alvarinho, 40% Trajadura – A long standing summer favorite of mine this one is always a crowd pleaser. Pale gold in the glass with a green tinge. Lively on the palate with a slight spritz and primary grapefruit flavors with lemon citrus. The mid-palate show a firm, clean acidity with a nice mineral depth that gives this one much more complexity than you should expect at $9. From there the quick dry, crisp finish leaves you instantly reaching for another sip. A fun, easy going with at home with brunch or by the pool (but please use plastic glasses ;) Just be careful because before you know it the bottle will be gone. On 2nd thought just buy a couple to begin with…

Rating: Buy It (and buy more than one! I’m at 6 and counting for the summer…)

2009 Willm Gentil

AlsaceI’ve long professed my love for the Alsace [Ahl-zass]. And for those reading along regularly you might remember as part of my 2010 ABC’s A was indeed for Alsace as I committed to exploring the region further. Tucked in eastern corner of France bordering Germany and Switzerland this is one the smaller French regions and has a pronounced German influence (it has changed hands four times between France and Germany).

This is no more prevalent than in the wines of the region (though it also happens to be the main beer-producing area of France) which are mostly white and display a strong Germanic influence. Most are made from the noble grapes of the Alsace (Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer or Muscat) and blends from the area are usually known as Edelzwicker (Edel=noble and Zwicker=mixture) meaning a mixture of noble grapes. Navarro Vineyards happens to make one of my favorite versions but that said I’m pretty sure I’ve never had one I didn’t like from abroad. Would this be the wine to change that?

Price: $8.99 @ Wine Library imported by Monsieur Touton Selection

What They Said:

2009 Willm GentilPer snooth.com “The Gentil Willm is a traditionnal blend going back to the 19th century from selected grapes grown in the best hillside vineyards. Gentil Willm is an alliance of Riesling (used for its finesse and acidity), Pinot Gris (used for its structure), Muscat (used for its powerfull fruit aromas) and Pinot Blanc (used for its fruit and suppleness). We generally use in our blend 70 – 80% of the noble grapevarieties. The Willm Gentil offers a dry and clean mouthfeel with an elegant and harmonious balance. Serve with cold meats; seafood; fowl; salads; soft cheeses.”

What I Think:

(12%) Riesling 30%, Pinot Gris 30%, Pinot Blanc 30%, Muscat 10% – Floral blossom nose with big white apple and pear flavors on the palate leading to a nice mineral driven acidity on a lasting, ever so slightly sweet, finish that is both refreshing and lengthy. Reminds of the Now & Zen I enjoyed for so many years…

Rating: Buy It