My wine philosophy has always been this: I would rather try a new wine that I end up not liking than the wine I had last week and the week before — even if it was great.
Life’s too short to be bored with your wine. There’s a diminishing return to opening the restaurant wine list and ordering the same old chardonnay or sauvignon blanc.
So be bold. If you want a white wine, why not try one from the airen grape? Or an unexpected blend of chardonnay, riesling and moscato?
Here are notes on some relatively unusual wines. You might like them, you might not. Give them a try, then send me an email telling me what you think.
• 2010 Treana White Blend, Central Coast, California (50 percent marsanne, 50 percent viognier): Marsanne is called the “white workhorse” grape of Rhone wines. It’s hardy, and it makes a full-bodied, fruity wine that’s popular to blend with other white varietals. Viognier is more rare, being hard to grow, but highly prized for its exotic aromas and flavors of vanilla, peaches, mangoes. At its best in the Condrieu region in France’s Southern Rhone Valley, it’s now growing fast in California. Treana White is intensely aromatic, with hints of camellias and honey and flavors of tropical fruit, it’s crisp enough to go well with rich foods; $21.
• 2011 Kendall-Jackson “Vintner’s Reserve” Sauvignon Blanc, California (88.8 percent sauvignon blanc, 9 percent semillon, 1 percent pinot gris, 0.5 percent riesling, 0.4 percent chardonnay, 0.3 percent viognier): Rich and fruity, with myriad flavors from lemons to pineapples to pears to honey. Sure, it’s mostly good old sauvignon blanc, and it might be easy to pooh-pooh the addition of tiny dollops like the 0.3 percent viognier. But I’ve seen winemakers do it, and I can attest that it can make a real difference in the flavor; $13.
• 2011 Tangent Wines Grenache Blanc, Edna Valley, Calif.: The grape, while white, is a mutation of the red grenache grape, probably from northern Spain, but now most popular as a blending grape in France’s Southern Rhone Valley in white versions of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It’s full-bodied and crisp, with flavors of tangerines, peaches and minerals. It would go well with white meat dishes and spicy food; $17.
• Nonvintage Cachette Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine, Burgundy, France (100 percent airen grapes): The light-skinned airen grape grew to fame making brandy in Spain, and now has been adopted for it lean crispness for making sparkling wine in France. (They don’t call it champagne even in France, because it isn’t made in that country’s Champagne district.) It has lots of big bubbles and aromas and flavors of apricots and minerals; $15.
• 2011 Martin Codax Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain (100 percent albariño grapes): This wine, from Spain’s northwestern Galicia region, is quickly gaining popularity in the United States for its light, crisp body and flavors of lemons and minerals. Grown near the cold Atlantic, it’s a great seafood wine. A friend of mine from Galicia says it was the wine they drank at seafood festivals with octopus boiled in big iron pots over open fires; $15.