Sunday, May 15, 2011

How I Learned To Love White Wines (Too)

I've always been a red-wine guy. The kind of whites that pass by at parties and in bars have always seemed boring, bland, and uninteresting. Chardonnays in particular, but also Pinot Grigos. Sauv Blancs from New Zealand set up a brief flutter because their stony-brooks tang was a nice change. But even they bore after a while.

The Change came subtly at first. At an industry Bordeaux tasting, I tried some white Bordeaux and was greatly surprised - they tasted really good!

Then I fast talked myself into trying a bottle of Cyndy Cosco's Passaggio Unoaked Chardonnay - and jumped out of my chair! This was delicious! Full of flavor, fruit, interest! Wow, where has this been all my life?

Starting last year I've been making a point to start with the whites at the industry wine events before heading to the reds. I've discovered two things: There are a lot of winemakers trying their hardest to do something interesting with white wines. And there are still a lot of boring whites out there.

But the fact that there are so many interesting and different whites, especially Chardonnays, is a wonderful discovery!


So I made a fast trip to Rock Wall Wines' event in May celebrating the opening of their new tasting room determined to follow my Give-White-Wine-A-Chance rule. And am I glad.

Rock Wall Wine Co., In Bldg 24 of the old Alameda Naval Air Station on the island of Alameda in San Francisco Bay, is both Shauna Rosenblum's Zin-focused winery, and a custom wine facility with nine boutique wineries. I tasted a Chard from Rock Wall, and three very different Sauvignon Blancs from Carica, R&B, and JRE.

The Rock Wall tasting room
Rock Wall  2009 Chardonnay Reserve Russian River Lone Oak Vineyard was an absolutely delicious Chardonnay, that, while oaked, rivals Cosco's Passaggio for tastiness. It has a wonderful bouquet, and tropical flavors plus apple - very pleasant, and as it opened up it just got more delicious. $30, and they only made 643 cases this year.

That sent me over to the other wineries serving that day, looking for more whites: I found three Sauvignon Blancs, each very different in style and flavor from the next! What a wonderful treat!

Dollhaus of Carica
Carica  2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($21) is made with 25% of an SB clone called Sauvignon Musque, which I had never heard of before, but which winemaker Charley Dollbaum claims is widely planted in California. It adds a tropical flavor to what is sometimes a stark wine, yet it's dry and with just enough clean acid to work well with food. It was so smooth and balanced, with such nice fruit, that I liked it much better than I do any NZ Sauv Blancs I've had.

Delicious Sauv Blanc for $10
Next table over, R&B Cellars was pouring their version, a 2007 North Coast Sauvignon Blanc they dub Serenade in Blanc (all their wine names use Jazz music themes), which is 80% tank-fermented to produce what they said was a Sancerre-like flavor. I found it fruity but lean, and liked it. It's only $13, which I like also.

And next to him was JRE (John Robert Eppler) Wines, whose 2009 "Tradition" Sauvignon Blanc with grapes from Napa also included Sauvignon Musque, only 6%, but it did the job of lifting the SB up above the norm, making it tropical-fruit forward and delicious!

My, what a wonderful lineup of whites!

I only had time for a couple of reds by this time-- the Napa Petite Sirah 2009 from Rock Wall had the most wonderful aroma! It was delicious, an A+ drink, but $40, sigh.

Ehrenberg Cellars 
I also retasted the Lodi Petite Sirah from Ehrenberg Cellars, which I had bought a case of six months ago when it was released - rich and delicious, just as I expected. Sorry, forgot to get the list price...

Finally, I stopped by Carica again for their reds and got to taste a very nice 2008 GSM (Rhone-style blend) called The Siren: 70% Kick Ranch Syrah, 15% Grenache, and the rest Mouvedre. At $32 it was *wide* - I don't know how else to put it: It had flavors across my tongue from left to right and front to back. It had beginning, a wonderful middle, and a nice finish. Complex and sophisticated, this is what you go for in a GMS.

I also got in a quick splash of their Kick Ranch Syrah 2007, at $30, very nice indeed.

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