Though June is only one week old, summertime is well upon us, so I offer today a roster of white wines designed to cool, to refresh, to quench, to accompany your lighter summer snacks and meals, your moments of relaxation on the porch or patio, at pool-side or on picnics. Life is no picnic, as they say — the economy lost another 345,000 jobs in May, and we’re supposed to be happy about that — but let’s try to make it as much of a pleasant outing as possible. The wines are listed by grape variety, with no attempt at order, class or hierarchy; it’s summertime, and life is too short.
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>Pinot Gris. The incredibly appealing Morgan R & D Franscioni Vineyard Pinot Gris 2008, Santa Lucia Highlands, offers aromas of green apple, roasted lemon and lemon curd with hints of jasmine and honeysuckle. A soft blur of oak — from four months in three-year-old French barrels — provides a lovely texture, deftly balanced between moderate lushness and crisp acidity, a fitting support to spicy pear, melon and lemon flavors that extend to a lively, slightly bitter grapefruit finish. The Morgan Franscioni Pinot Gris is consistently one of the best pinto gris wines in California, and the ’08 version does not disappoint. Excellent. About $17.
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>Sauvignon Blanc. Get ready for a knockout nose of roasted lemon, peach and mango from the Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc 2007, Sonoma County, an exuberantly fashioned sauvignon blanc that avoids the kiwi-pea-grapefruit excesses of the prevalent New Zealand style. Nestled in a seductive texture that’s almost pillowy, while retaining crispness and vibrancy, delicious citrus flavors are highlighted by orange zest, leafy currant and a refreshing wash of limestone. Another perennial achiever; great with vegetable spring rolls and sushi. Very Good+, and Great Value at about $15.
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>Muscat. We were quite happy drinking a bottle of the Bonny Doon Ca’ del Solo Muscat 2008, Monterey County, with shrimp risotto. The wine, made from the producer’s biodynamically-farmed (if you care) Ca’ del Solo vineyard, is composed of 88 percent moscato giallo grapes and 12 percent louriero, the grape that in Portugal is made into Vinho Verde. The aromas are incredibly floral, encompassing honeysuckle and almond blossom and one of those mysterious, astringent little white flowers, which lends an air of spareness. Scents and flavors of peach and pear are coddled with dried spices; a slightly herbal aspect, like fresh pea shoots; and a touch of fig. This charming wine bears a texture that’s smooth and suave, almost viscous, and there are hints of petrol and grapefruit in the slightly astringent, stony finish. Delightful. Very Good+. About $18.
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>Riesling. Well, I felt as if I could eat the Ad Lib Wallflower Riesling 2008 with a spoon. This seductive riesling from Western Australia’s Mount Barker region bursts with apple, orange zest, lime and grapefruit, jasmine and honeysuckle and a touch of the grape’s requisite petrol or rubber eraser element. The wine radiates purity and intensity, scintillating acidity and resonant minerality, while flavors of citrus and peach with a hint of lychee are etched with hints of cloves and crystallized ginger. Despite this array of delights, the wine displays a high-toned sense of reticence emphasized by a finish that bristles with grapefruit and limestone. Excellent. About $17.
Imported by Vintage New World, Shandon, Cal.
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>Viognier. I realize that The Crusher label (from the Three Loose Screws division of Don Sebastiani & Sons) refers to the mechanical device that crushes grapes before they go into the fermentation tank, but you have to admit that the name conjures a super-hero out of a Marvel comic book (or movie). Extra-cultural considerations aside, the label is devoted to wines from California’s Clarksburg region, west of Sacramento. The Crusher Wilson Vineyard Viognier 2007, Clarksburg, opens with notes of macerated peach and spiced pear, with an overlay of guava, smoke, dried herbs and fennel. In the mouth, a keen edge of acidity slices through a slightly cushiony texture that bolsters roasted peach and lemon flavors heightened by a dry meadowy aspect. Bracing bitterness buoys the finish. Try with moderately spicy Southeast Asian cuisine. Very Good+, and well-worth about $13.
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>Semillon. I think of semillon as an underrated grape, being, for most producers, more handy for lending luster and glamor to sauvignon blanc than as a star on its own. So, I’m happy to go to bat for the Brokenwood Semillon 2008, Hunter Valley, New South Wales (a few hours drive north of Sydney), a 100-percent semillon wine made completely in stainless steel. In classic form, this wine displays leafy, figgy, nutty qualities that adorn scents and flavors of apple and ripe stone fruit that segue into green grapes with a touch of lychee. Lemon, lime and limestone — but no grapefruit — coincide with snappy acidity, while a few minutes in the glass bring up notes of almond blossom and orange zest. At 10 percent alcohol, this goes down very easily, but don’t think for a moment that it’s uncomplicated. We had this bottle with baked salmon wrapped in lemon slices and kale, a great pairing. Excellent. About $20.
The label illustration is from the previous vintage; it is the 2008 under review here.
Imported by Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, Cal.
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>Chenin Blanc. The chenin blanc grape receives its apotheosis in France’s Loire Valley, in dry, semi-dry and dessert wine manifestations. The Domaine Le Peu de la Moriette Vouvray 2007, made by the family-owned Domaine Pichot, is, yes, slightly sweet at the intake — don’t be afraid! — but by mid-palate feels bone-dry and indeed exhibits a touch of refreshing astringency on the finish. Beguiling aromas and flavors of slightly honeyed peach, pear and yellow plum are imbued with smoke, anise, lavender and a hint of flint. In the mouth, the wine is quite earthy and minerally yet displays a texture so delicate and finely woven that it’s gauze-like in lovely effect and appeal. The wine sees no new wood, resting six months in used 450-liter oak barrels, twice the size of the standard 225-liter barrel of Bordeaux or the 228-liter barrel of Burgundy; the point is that oak here provides shading and nuance rather than a direct woody, spicy influence. Drink with roasted or grilled fish, quenelles, blanquette de veau or as an aperitif with goat cheese. Excellent. About $19.
Imported by Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, Ala.
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>Chardonnay. Inexpensive and well-made chardonnays are about as easy to find as foie gras in a vegan’s refrigerator, but the Joseph Drouhin Mâcon-Villages 2007 comes through for us. It doesn’t hurt that ’07 is an excellent vintage in Burgundy, including the Mâconnais, which serves as a sort of southern appendix — one has to count the Chalonnais too — to Burgundy’s more majestic Cote d’Or to the north. Whatever the case, Drouhin’s Mâcon-Villages 2007 — made completely in stainless steel –reflects vintage, region and grape in its attractive spiced peach and pear bouquet that offers a sibilant whisper of spice and a bright nudge of pineapple; a few minutes in the glass unfold a hint of honeysuckle. In the mouth, the wine exhibits moderate richness and an almost creamy texture cut by the electric vibrancy of crisp acid and the sober scintillation of limestone, an element that really comes to the fore on the spare finish. A delightful chardonnay for serving with grilled fish and seafood pastas and risottos. Very Good+. About $14.50.
Imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co., New York.
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>Finally … let’s admit it: sometimes all we want to do is lie back in the sun — or shade, whatever your wont may be — put the feet up, relax and have a glass of quaffable wine we can knock back mindlessly and not bother our pretty little heads about, and I mean that only in the most positive sense. New Age White Wine, a non-vintage gulper from Valentin Bianchi, in Argentina’s Mendoza region, fills the bill handily. Made from sauvignon blanc and malvasia grapes, a 50/50 ratio, this young, fruity, spritzy sweetheart — fermentation is stopped early, so some residual carbonation and sugar remain — offers apple, apple and more apple with a hint of lemon, apple blossom and orange zest in a 9.5 percent alcohol package that gets the job done. Drop a slice of lime in the glass, and, baby, you’re good to go — or not go, that being the whole idea. Good+. About $10.
Imported by Quintessential, Napa, Cal.
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Picnic image from frenchrabbit.com.
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