These white wines handle the chillier temperatures with gusto
The nor’easter that blew through this week left a definite chill that finally telegraphed that fall is here. If, like me, you’re not quite ready to give up some of your warmer-weather drinking habits, there’s good news: you don’t have to. Here are some whites for transitioning into fall, wines with enough structure to stand up to the season’s hardier fare yet still deliver a fresh snap.
Château Guiraud Bordeaux Blanc 2019, Sauternes. Usually overshadowed by its red counterparts, Bordeaux Blanc is having a moment and this example shows why. This chateau is one of several traditional producers of the sweet Sauternes that is now also producing dry whites. Aromas of fresh-cut wood and freshly raked earthy hummus are followed on the palate by hazelnut spice and a slightly oxidized style hinting at ripe yellow apples. Satisfying and deep. 14%
Château des Matards, Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux 2018. Similar in style to the Guiraud example, this warm, rich wine expresses yellow apple and quince with a lovely long nutty finish. I didn’t want it to end. Tastes of quality and prestige and is a great Burgundy imposter—so, go on, fool your fancy friends with this value-priced ($10-12) bottle. 13.5%
Chêne Bleu “Aliot” 2015, IGP Vaucluse. I loved the artistic Medieval bottle label and I loved the wine inside, a rich blend of Roussanne (65%), white Grenache (30%) and Marsanne (5%). Aged in oak for eight months, this is a Burgundian styled wine—rich, round and deep with baked yellow apples and a tinge of oxidization. It is glorious. At 14.5%, it’s no lightweight, so do as I did and have grilled sausages with this one.
Chehalem Inox Unoaked Chardonnay 2019, Willamette Valley. Clean tart green apple and pear expression with quince making a tart appearance—one of many Chardonnay gems coming out of this Oregon AVA (and stay tuned for more on that). Terrific with braised Brussel sprouts—a notoriously tricky vegetable to pair. 12.5%
Lange Estate Chardonnay “Three Hills” 2019, Willamette Valley. My tasting note on this read “I love you Chardonnay!” Another prime example of what Willamette Valley can do. This had a clean purity of fruit and pretty, round pear flavors and rich baked yellow apple (are you sensing a theme here?), all elevated by a savory herbal note.
Duchman Family Winery Viognier, Bingham Family Vineyards, 2019, Texas High Plains. I’m not a Viognier fan, even (or especially) when coming from its spiritual homeland in Condrieu. But I like the Viogniers coming out of Texas for their tamped-down styles that show markers of Condrieu without the floral and peach aromatics and the glycerol palate that I find too heavy and difficult to pair with food. So, having gotten that out of the way, this sample from Duchman does express the peach and honey notes you’d expect but in a less knock-you-over-the-head kind of way with bright acid saving the day. Made from 100% Texas fruit. 14.1%
Cloudy Bay “Te Koko” Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Marlborough. I admit to not being a fan of new world Sauvignon Blanc, but this one defies everything I thought about those coming out of New Zealand. This example boasts a rich, deep expression that—wait for it!—seemed French to me with no markers of the “feline” or pungent grassiness that typically repels me. I would happily reconsider all of En Zed SBs if they were in this style 13%
J. Lohr Sauvignon Blanc “Flume Crossing” 2020, Arroyo Seco (Monterey). While I’m on the subject, here’s another new world SB that surprised me. This creamy, medium-bodied sample had some typical SB markers—lime and gooseberry—but tamped down so they didn’t overwhelm the other components of the wine. I liked it with split pea and smoked ham soup. 13.5%
Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc, 2020. This completes the triumvirate of SB surprises! Made from organic grapes sourced throughout California (mostly Mendocino), this was a tasty surprise in a 1.5 liter box, showing subtle grapefruit and kiwi. Not a complex wine but a very democratic choice when entertaining large groups. 13.2%
Wedding Oak Winery Roussanne 2019, Texas High Plains. Rhone varieties are among the many stars in the Lone Star state, and this apple- and white-peach inflected Roussanne is one of them. Full and fleshy, broad and pushing the ripeness levels (hey, it is Texas, so they do big here), this is a fuller-bodied and satisfying white for a chilly evening. Savory and elevated by anise, it’s another good Burgundy imposter. 14.1%