Usually we think of red wine as smoothing the transition from summer to autumn, as in slightly darker, more substantial pinot noirs and merlots that will lead eventually to full-bodied cabernets, zinfandels and syrahs. (If you have been cooking red meat out on the grill this summer, of course you’ve been drinking those full-bodied red wines anyway, at least occasionally.) Some white wines, however, can have a spicy savory quality that sets them apart from the delicacy and scintillating freshness and crispness that we look for in summertime whites. The examples reviewed today carry more weight, more individuality; you want to roll them around in the mouth and, while you’re enjoying them, think about them too.
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The Nobilo “Icon” Pinot Gris 2005, from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, isn’t a late-harvest wine, but it certainly shares the intensity and some of the flavor profile that late-harvest wines may possess. The color is vivid golden-yellow; the bouquet teems with scents of rich, honeyed apples, peaches and pears with hints of honeysuckle and jasmine. For all its richness and density, however, this is a dry, stony and even austere wine, at least on the finish, at least after you have savored the flavors of spiced, macerated, smoky peaches and yellow plums imbued with crystallized ginger, lime peel and orange zest. At the age of three-and-a-half years, this wine feels fresh, young and vigorous — the acid cuts like a blade — and fully ready to match with a dish of roast pork with apples and chilies or shrimp curry. Let’s call it Excellent and Worth a Search. I have seen this wine priced from about $16 to $19.
Imported by Pacific Wine Partners, a division of Constellation Wines.
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It was about as easy finding information about the Saint-Veran 2006, produced by Vins Auvigne, as it has been digging Al Qaeda out of the mountains of western Pakistan. Surely the importer, listed on the label as Diageo Chateau & Estates, would have some incentive for publicizing the wine, at least to the extent of mentioning it on the company’s website (and providing me with a piece of freaking label art). The point is that this is a forward and audaciously bright Saint-Veran — 100 percent chardonnay — that weaves jasmine, pineapple and grapefruit, mango and Bit ‘O Honey with lemon and lime peel and a hint of ginger; whoa, can this be Burgundy! For all its vividness, the wine offers touches of the autumnal in an undertow of smoke and mushroomy earthiness. I paid about $19 in a little wine store in Croton-on-Hudson, in Westchester County, back in May. Rate it Very Good+ and mark it Worth a Search.
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The Foursight Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2007, Anderson Valley, is the wine, coincidentally, that inspired this post about white wines to take you into autumn. My initial notes on the wine are “Very crisp and lively, yet dense, almost savory.” That sense of the savory comes from the textural quality, from intense spiciness that you feel as if you’re wrapping your tongue around it, from the Mediterranean sensuality of roasted lemon and lemon balm scents and flavors married to the formidably dry and minerally character typical of Mendocino’s Anderson Valley — and of stainless steel fermentation and aging. Great tone and balance. Foursight Wines is a new winery founded in 2007 by longtime growers Bill and Nancy Charles and their daughter Kristy Charles and her fiance (husband?) Joseph Webb. They produce small amounts of sauvignon blanc and pinot noir: I’ll spill some ink about the pinot noir in a week or two. If you caught a little, silver trout (or bought one or ordered one in a restaurant) and it was cooked in the simplest way possible, that is to say grilled or sauteed and served with a light lemon-caper sauce, here’s your wine. “Small amount,” in this instance, means a miserly 189 cases. Sorry. Excellent, and, again, Worth a Search. About $20.
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One of the partners in Picket Fence Vineyards is winemaker Don Van Staaveren, who, those with long memories may recall, crafted the Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, a spectacular wine that not only brought increased picketfence.jpg renown to the producer but forced a price hike of about 400 percent for Cinq Cepages. (O.K., it didn’t hurt that the Wine Spectator named it Wine of the Year for 1999.) Anyway, Picket Fence, now in its second vintage, focuses on chardonnay and pinot noir, those mainstays of Russian River Valley. The Picket Fence Chardonnay 2006 is clean, fresh and bright, an absolute classic that balances fruit, acid and oak in exquisite fashion; it’s rich and ripe and spicy without being flamboyant or obvious. Scents of pineapple and grapefruit are wreathed with honeysuckle and jasmine, orange blossom, orange zest and a hint of anise. These qualities may sound flamboyant as hell, but the temper here is subtle, and in the mouth the wine marshals ringing acid, a prominent limestone element and nuanced oak to project steadiness and substance. Why do I place this chardonnay on a list of “Eight White Wines to Ease You into Autumn”? For that precise reason: The manner in which structure asserts itself and subdues the wine’s forthright allure in favor of elegance and suppleness. Production was 8,500 cases. Excellent. About $20.
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The Cadaretta SBS 2007, Columbia Valley, Washington, is the first release from this new winery, founded by the Middleton family, fifth-generation timber-growers in Washington and grape-growers in California. Winemaker is Frenchwomen Virginie cadaretta-sbsfront-finalthumbnail.jpg Bourgue. SBS is a blend of 73 percent sauvignon blanc and 27 percent semillon, made all in stainless steel. The wine is one of those lovely paradoxes, a subtle combination of woven delicacies with a structure that feels inevitable; in fact, if you didn’t know the wine was made in stainless steel, you would swear that it derived some suppleness and tone from oak. Notably clean and fresh, the wine melds notes of roasted lemon with spiced peach and pear layered over touches of lime and grapefruit. That latter element, along with whisking acid, keeps the wine lively, almost brisk, though it feels as if it slows down, taking things steady as they go, through the dense, spicy finish. You want to roll this stuff around on your tongue. A great debut for this winery. Production was 720 cases. Excellent. About $22.
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Last week, I wrote about the Bennett Lane Maximus Red Feasting Wine 2005, Napa Valley. Now it’s the turn of the Bennett Lane Maximus White Feasting Wine 2007, Napa Valley. The blend is 86 percent sauvignon blanc, 12 percent chardonnay and 2 percent muscat, the latter smidgeon contributing, no doubt, to an irresistible and slightly astringent aroma of some chaste little white mountainside flower. This is surrounded by crisp apple, lush and lively tangerine, lemon curd and lemon balm. Pretty heady stuff, all right. This is an elegantly proportioned wine, though, nicely layered with limestone and pure citrus, scintillating acid and a soft burr of oak that permeates the structure the way that ink spreads across the lines of an etching plate. Spiced grapefruit gives the bracing finish a tang. Excellent. About $28.
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LL smoked a fillet of Coho salmon over ancho chilies — the result is salmon of silken texture, heightened flavor and deep but subtle spiciness — and made a warm potato salad with green beans to go with it. My job was setting the table and opening this bottle of Domaine Faiveley Mercurey “Clos Rochette” 2006. The Clos Rochette vineyard, in the Cote Chalonnaise in southern Burgundy, is a monopole for Faiveley, that is, a rare instance in Burgundy of a producer owning an entire vineyard; most are mercurey.JPG divided among different, sometimes many different, owners. Clos Rochette (“little rocks”) covers just under 11 acres. This wine, 100 percent chardonnay, ages 40 percent in tank and 60 percent in oak, half of the barrels new. It embodies all the gratifying paradoxes that characterize well-made white burgundy: It’s both plumb and crisp; luscious and dry; sensuous and rigorous. The extraordinary bouquet offers lavender and rose hips, lemon curd and yellow plum and a strain of richness like prosciutto fat and lychee nectar. These elements prevail, also, in the mouth, where the wine’s clean, fresh acidity and limestone dryness bring some discipline, while in the finish there’s a burst of soft, spicy oak, like a burnt offering. It’s an incredible pleasure to drink a wine such as this and contemplate the place where it was made, the seasons that rolled over the vineyard, the labor in the vines through the changing months, the timeless rituals that brought the wine to fruition. Fortunate is the house that could make this its house white wine. Drink now through 2012 or ’14. Excellent. About $34, a Great Price considering how much burgundy costs these days.
Imported by Wilson Daniels.
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The Marc Kreydenweiss Kritt Gewurztraminer “Les Charmes” 2006, Alsace, is classic gewurztraminer. The color is bright straw-gold; scents of pear and melon, lychee and roses and that characteristic “petrol” or “rubber eraser” note twine through the bouquet. The wine is modestly sweet on the entry, bright and crisp, a bit honeyed in its spiced and roasted peach and pear flavors, through from the middle back through the finish, it’s dry and stony and quite spicy, and it’s lent a touch of bracing bitterness by the appearance of grapefruit and lime peel. Eight months in 80-year-old oak casks give the wine not a whit of woodiness but support a lovely, supple shape and texture. Kreydenweiss is a completely biodynamic estate. If you’re serving an autumnal dish like roast or smoked pork loin or grilled sausages, or further on down the line, heaping a table with the Thanksgiving feast, this wine would be terrific. Production was 950 cases. Excellent. About $37.
Imported by Wilson Daniels.
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