Sat 6 Oct 2007
I tasted these wines, which offer different sorts of charms, pleasures and virtues, last week, at home with various meals. The Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc 2005 and the Graff Family Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2005 were particularly good with wild Coho salmon, sauteed with nothing more than salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon, but let’s start with the wine that’s an Incredible Bargain.
That’s the Montinore Estate Gewurztraminer 2006, Willamette Valley, Oregon, a wine that I mentioned on a page of KoeppelOnWine recently as being “one of the best gerwurztraminers I have tried from the American West Coast.” It begins with a gorgeous bouquet of rose petal, jasmine and honeysuckle, litchi, peach and apricot. Flamboyant in the nose, the wine is more spare in the mouth, with bright, precise acid and sinews of limestone. Despite those factors, the texture is silky and sensuous, the flavors almost lush with roasted lemon and lime peel. The finish pulls up a bit of the grape’s natural bitterness. A wonderful wine for the price, about $13 or $14.
Next, look at the Leth Steinagrund Gruner Veltliner 2006, from Austria’s Wagram region. This displays more body and presence than the lighter, more delicate gruner veltliner wines we often see. Scents and flavors of roasted lemon and lemon curd receive emphasis from lime and pear and touches of dried baking spice. While the wine is moderately rich in flavor and texture, it’s also notably dry and crisp, the structure and foundation lying in unmistakable stony, minerally elements. Imported by Domaine Select Wine Estates, New York. Another Bargain at about $16 or $17.
The Turnbull Sauvignon Blanc 2006, Oakville, Napa Valley, strikes the themes of spareness and elegance, yet it doesn’t neglect to weave delightful strains of lemon-lime and grapefruit, dried thyme and caraway, with something a little leafy and curranty at the core. The wine is a blend of 85 percent sauvignon blanc, 10 percent viognier and five percent semillon; it’s fermented and aged 85 percent in stainless steel and 15 percent in new French oak, lending an overlay of spice and firm structure over scintillating acid. The whole package offers lovely balance and integration. Finished with a screw-cap for easy opening, though this image doesn’t show that. Terrific quality for the price, about $16 or $17.
Bonny Doon’s Le Cigare Blanc 2005, California, in homage to the white wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, is a blend of 54 percent roussanne grapes and 46 percent grenache blanc. The wine is carefully made, the grapes fermented separately first in stainless steel and then in barrel. After fermentation, the wine ages six months in neutral French oak (meaning used barrels); 25 percent of the wine goes through so-called malolactic fermentation (“so-called” because it has nothing to do with fermenting), a naturally-occurring process in which sharp malic (“apple-like”) acid is transformed to creamy lactic (“milk-like”) acid. I mention these winemaking methods — and they’re legitimate techniques, not tricks — to show you how a winemaker like Randall Grahm can meticulously strive to allow wine as much as possible to have a (silent) say in how it should be made, while ensuring that the wine possesses both freshness and personality, qualities Le Cigare Blanc 2005 has in spades. It’s a clean, fresh, lovely wine, offering winsome notes of pear and roasted lemon, crystallized lemon rind and ginger, jasmine and honeysuckle. In the mouth, it’s dry, crisp and spare, layering limestone, dried Provencal herbs, lime peel and grapefruit in a texture that’s appealingly soft and round but crackling with acid. Great winemaking. About $20.
The Saint-Veran 2005 from Domaine Perraud is the first serious wine from Burgundy I’ve seen closed with a screw-cap, though since Saint-Veran is as far south in the Maconnais as you can get before you hit Beaujolais, it may be a bit of a stretch to call it Burgundy, though location is, of course, everything, in marketing as well as morals. More to the point: My first note is “Whoa, what a lovely little chardonnay!” Then: “Whoa, not so little!” It’s a vibrant and resonant expression of the grape’s spare, elegant minerally side, almost crystalline in purity and intensity, delivering lemon and grapefruit scents and flavors with a touch of baked pineapple and dried spice and, in the mouth, a walloping smack of acid. The finish is incredibly dry and austere. North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, Ca. About $20.
Typical prices for the Graff Family Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2005, Chalone, Monterey County, run from $24 to $28, but I saw sites on the Internet offering it for $18 to $22. The wine shows its pedigree in French oak (fermented and aged) but modulates the woody, spicy aspects in favor of almond and almond blossom, jasmine, lemon and lime peel. In the mouth, the wine expands to include orange rind and tangerine, smoke and a hint of caramel. It handily balances moderate richness and lushness with a firm structure and crisp acid and a long mineral-laced finish. 400 cases. Drink now through 2009.