Retailer Wine Selections

While major varietal white wines continue to be a driving force in the U.S. wine market, there is a growing acceptance among the trade and consumers for so-called “minor” whites, which are often wines of major league quality. These wines can be made from a wide variety of white grapes – riesling, viognier, albarino, pinot blanc, etc., or a blend of several different grapes. With this in mind, we asked the National Retailer Wine Panel to suggest a lineup of these wines, which range widely in style and price. As always, these selections contain brief tasting notes, a rating and the wine’s suggested retail price (which varies from market to market). – Richard Brandes

*****(96) Weingut Josef Leitz Riesling, Rudesheimer Berg Kaisersteinfels Feinherb Rheingau 2005 (Germany). This is the perfect bottle for all those people that think riesling is too sweet; herbaceous aromatics of bay leaf, cut grass and basil are fully realized here, not to mention a bit of Granny Smith apple; stone fruit is counterbalanced perfectly with tangy acid and an earthy stone character; a wine that can easily age 10+ years. ($40)

*****(96) Torres Vina Esmeralda 2005 (Spain). This wonderful wine is made from 85% moscatel and 15% gewürztraminer; rose petal and candied orange rind on the nose with viscous melon flavors on the palate; mouthwatering acidity that screams for fresh oysters. ($16).

*****(95) Hans Wirsching Iphofer Kalb Scheurebe Kabinett 2004 (Germany). From Germany’s Franken region, scheurebe tastes like a golden raisin, very concentrated and palate-coating; lightly sweet with a zesty, lingering, sweet-tart finish; delightful. ($16)

*****(94) Sobon Amador County Viognier 2004 (California). Tropical aromatics with rich well-rounded pineapple and mango flavors and a long creamy vanilla bean finish. ($20)

*****(94) Brooks Riesling Willamette Valley 2005 (Oregon). Like many a well-made riesling, this is redolent of Granny Smith apple, slightly ripe pear, white peach and hints of allspice, ginger and lemon rind; lots of tastes of minerals mark the lean, tight body, framed in crisp acidity; the finish is long; try with oysters, any fish preparation, blackened chicken Caesar salad, sea bass or langoustine pasta. ($20)


*****(94) Clautiere Vineyard Paso Robles Viognier 2005 (California). Bursting with flavors of apricot and peach blossom from start to finish; wonderfully balanced with layers of flavors. ($20)

*****(93) Belle Vallée Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 2006 (Oregon). Full flavors of peaches and pears are evident in this well-balanced pinot gris; a crisp and minerally finish best completes the textures of creamy vanilla and the full-bodied presence of peach and hints of tropical fruit; excellent with salmon and other hearty fish dishes. ($19)

*****(92) Heller Estate Chenin Blanc 2006 (California). Delightful, bright and crisp chenin (with 20% riesling); organically grown in Carmel Valley, this is a food-friendly beverage, and beer alternative, for a hot summer day. ($23)

**** (92) Saddleback Cellars Pinot Blanc 2005 (California). Big and rich; hints of butter and very light smoke; could match up well against many chardonnays. ($20)

*****(92) M. Chapoutier Les Meysonniers Crozes Hermitage Blanc 2005 (France). Medium-bodied, lush with ripe melon and apricot fruit flavors. ($26)

*****(92) Au Bon Climat Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc 2005 (California). This blend of 70% pinot gris/30% pinot blanc is chock full of character; creamy red apples combine with just a twist of lime to give this both richness and lift; a remarkably flowery nose; at first, the pinot blanc prevails with its dry crispness, and then the unique spice of the pinot gris kicks in. ($22)

*****(92) D’Arenberg “The Hermit Crab” White McLaren Vale 2005 (Australia). This blend of 70% viognier and 30% marsanne is replete with aromas and flavors of orange blossom, jasmine, white stone fruits, minerals, green apple, flowers and a touch of banana, all reined in by nice bracing acidity; a very long finish; try with shrimp, couscous with scallops, charred fish in a cream sauce or scampi. ($15)

*****(92) Terras Gauda Abadia San Campio Albarino 2004 (Spain). A truly elegant, classic style; aromas and flavors of citrus zest, under-ripe peach and melon with underlying minerality; very dry with racy acidity; great with shrimp, oysters, caviar. ($20)

*****(92) Vatisistas Assyrtiko 2005 (Greece). This ancient Greek varietal has finally arrived; razor sharp and racy with tons of minerality,
Granny Smith apples and anise flavors; try it with grilled octopus. ($22)

***** FIVE STARS (92-100) A top-flight
wine. Superior in taste and character and
providing an outstanding price/value relationship.
**** FOUR STARS (86-91) A very good
wine and an excellent value. A wine for which
customers will keep coming back.
*** THREE STARS (80-85) An above average
wine, at a reasonable price point, which
many customers will enjoy.
** TWO STARS (70-79) An average wine.
*ONE STAR (50-69) A below-average wine.

*****(92) Ventana Vineyards Gewurztraminer 2004 (California). Spicy, slightly off-dry, cool-climate gewürztraminer; well-balanced; not too floral; fine accompaniment to Asian and Southwest cuisine. ($17)

*****(92) Smoking Loon Viognier 2005 (California). Rich and intense for a wine in this price point with plenty of flavors harmoniously
coming together; notes of anise, mint, mango, guava – all with a sweet backbone; delightfully full and satisfying; a welcome break from
chardonnays. ($11)

*****(92) Adler Fels Gewurztraminer Sonoma 2005 (California). A beautiful expression of what makes this varietal one of the most user-friendly wines on the market; ripe tropical and pineapple fruit flavors are complemented with a touch of spice: a floral bouquet, a dry finish, creamy and smooth; pair with spicy Asian foods and roasted poultry. ($18)

*****(92) Saiar Albarino 2005 (Spain). Well-balanced fruit and acidity; fantastic fresh aromas; a finish of creamy pear. ($17)

*****(92) Provins Valais Fendent AOC Valais 2005 (Switzerland). Made from 100% chasselas, Switzerland’s famous white grape; fresh hints of wild flowers and apple on the nose lead to flavors of honeydew and apple that softly coat the palate; crisp and lively finish. ($12)


****(91) Solena Pinot Gris 2004 (Oregon). Lemon, apricot with a hint of spice and mineral; bold full-flavored wine. ($19)

****(91) Maso Canali Pinot Grigio 2005 (Italy). A wonderfully ripe pinot grigio with intense tropical fruits balanced by a full, round mouthfeel. ($17)

****(91) Rosenblum Kathy’s Cuvee Viognier 2005 (California). Huge floral nose of pineapple and mango; silky texture coats your tongue; dancing acidity balances texture and flavor; great match for seafood. ($19)


****(90) Wild Horse Viognier 2005 (California). Hints of apricot and mango in the nose with a mélange of exotic flavors upfront; perfectly balanced; not too oily and a long enjoyable finish. ($18)

****(90) Oriel Palatina Riesling 2004 (Germany). Rich fruit and vibrant acidity round out this dynamic riesling; subtle sweetness initially followed by a smooth transition to dry, and a pleasing finish. ($22)

****(90) Domaine de Mirail Blanc Sec 2005 (France). Light, bright and easy French colombard; lots of gooseberry and grapefruit on the palate and nose. ($10)

****(90) Ken Forrester Petit Chenin 2005 (South Africa). Made from 100% chenin blanc with a nose of lemontree and tropical fruit; ripe flavors of cantaloupe, pear and a hint of anise; a sturdy 14.5% alcohol; great value. ($9)

****(90) Graf von Schonborn Hallburger Schlossberg Silvaner Kabinett Trocken 2005 (Germany). Steely crisp aromas and flavors of crabapple with tones of allspice and ginger; racy acidity on the dry (trocken) finish. ($17)

****(90) Lingenfelder Bird Label Riesling 2003 (Germany). Dominating slate aroma leads to slightly sweet white peach and apricot flavors. ($12)

****(90) Elk Cove Pinot Gris 2005 (Oregon). A ripe style of pinot gris with honeysuckle and peach in the nose; a fine spine of acidity and a pretty lush finish. ($17)

****(90) Bougrier Chenin Blanc, Loire Valley 2006 (France). Crisp and elegant, with a soft, fruity finish; Noel Bougrier produces great value across nearly all of his wines and this delicious white is no exception; peach and citrus notes predominate, and the light mineral notes provide balance and finesse on a crisp finish; try with fresh fruit or a chilled seafood salad. ($10)

****(90) Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling 2005 (Oregon). If you didn’t know this was from Oregon you’d think it was a spätlese from the Mosel; peach, nectarine and apricot are all on display here with a perfect level of ripeness; decidedly off-dry, this is a tremendous value for a serious domestic riesling. ($12)

****(90) Reserve des Vignerons, Saumur Blanc 2005 (France). Crisp, clean and bursting with zesty lime and citrus flavors with a touch of honey and flowers, this Loire Valley white is made entirely from chenin blanc; enjoy it with any seafood preparation that involves a mango salsa or other lively fruits. ($8)

****(89) Max. Ferd. Richter Veldenzer Elisenberg Riesling Spatlese 2005 (Germany). Crisp and clean; a benchmark Moselle riesling from one of the region’s great producers; drink as an aperitif. ($15)

****(89) Wolfberger Edelzwicker 2005. (France). Made with the “noble grapes” of Alsace, this is as dry as a typical Alsace pinot blanc, with a fruity nose, and a dry finish; delightful with turkey and other poultry. ($10)

****(89) Walnut City Wine Works Viognier Columbia Valley 2005 (Washington State). Very floral on the nose with hints of honeysuckle; tropical fruit taste with pineapple and citrus; medium finish. ($19)

****(89) Don David “Michel Torino Estate” Torrontes 2005 (Argentina). An extremely well made wine, with nuances of peach on the palate; plenty of bright fruit on the nose and in the taste; tart touch on the tip of the tongue; an excellent food wine. ($16)

****(88) Dr. Loosen Blue Slate Riesling 2005 (Germany). From the steep, slate vineyards this off-dry riesling is fresh and clean with plenty of apricot and peach tones; nice as an aperitif. ($16)

****(88) Columbia Winery Cellarmaster Riesling 2005 (Washington State). Fruity honey aroma; taste of apricot and honey; medium, pleasant finish. ($13)

****(88) Yalumba “Y” Series Viognier 2006 (Australia). Round, smooth yet bright white wine with melon and honeysuckle notes; excellent example of Down-Under viognier at an affordable price. ($12)

**** (88) Caves Alianca Vinho Verde NV (Portugal). Youthful, fresh and floral; citrus and minerals with hints of vanilla; low alcohol; perfect for sipping, shellfish and spicy foods. ($7)

****(88) Il Roccolo, Grecanico 2005 (Italy). An indigenous Sicilian grape variety often thought to be Greek in origin, the Grecanico grape produces a wine that is bright, crisp and refreshing; flavors of grapefruit, pear and white peach are whisked along the palate by racy acidity and finish with a citrusy tang and a hint of lingering fruit. ($6)

****(88) Regillo Frascati 2005 (Italy). A big surprise; lots of very crisp fruit and none of the cloying aftertaste usually found in frascati; use as a successful “upsell” from the $9.99 pinot grigio. ($14)

****(88) Salneval Albarino 2005 (Spain). Fresh and full of life; melon, pear and a hint of hay on the nose; serve with any seafood dish. ($13)

****(88) DoZoe Albarino 2005 (Spain). Classic albarino with lots of fruit on the nose and a very clean crisp taste; wonderful with a Crab Imperial; with the prices of quality albarino going up, this is a real buy. ($13)

****(88) Domaine de la Becassonne White Cotes du Rhone 2005 (France). Bright fruit flavors, unoaked, good acidity; rousanne, clairette and grenache blanc. ($15)

****(88) Broglia Gavi di Gavi 2005 (Italy). Medium-bodied, pear and white peach flavors; a particularly flavorful gavi. ($20)

****(88) McManis Family Viognier 2005 (California). Opens with a bright, clean bouquet with mild fruit aromas of peach and pear; light to medium bodied and soft on the palate, its acidity builds across the palate, enlivening the apple, pear and melon flavors and finishing with a distinct measure of citrus; an overachiever at this price. ($9)

****(88) Pierre Boniface Apremont 2005 (France). Ripe taste and a bit rustic; good concentration; lanolin, pear and almond flavors; hints of pineapple and smoke in the clean finish. ($15)

****(87) Nora Albarino 2005 (Spain). Silky, smooth texture with notes of tropical fruits and melons followed by crisp acidity; not too complex yet lively enough to be excellent with most seafood. ($15)

****(87) Beckmen Marsanne Purisma Mt. Santa Ynez Valley 2003 (California). Golden-hued, sunnyyellow wine with open fragrances and tastes of honey, nuts, peach and creamed apples; oily, viscous texture; a nice, long finish, marked with a snappy dose of minerals; drink with halibut, lobster bisque, poached sea bass, grilled salmon or Provencal chicken finished with olives. ($16)

****(87) Foris Pinot Gris 2005 (Oregon). Soft, medium-bodied; lovely fruit middle with a nice dry finish. ($15)

****(87) Robert Sinskey Vineyards “Abraxas” White Carneros 2005 (California). Multigrape blend of pinot blanc (37%), riesling (26%), pinot gris (19%) and gewurztraminer (18%); it is soft, round and fat on the palate, with subtle fruit and honeyed flavors, sporting good acidity; great as an apéritif. ($28)

****(86) Boony Doon Pacific Rim Dry Riesling 2005 (California). This well-balanced riesling is fresh and aromatic with a cornucopia of fruit flavors, just a hint of sweetness and a clean and refreshing finish; a good match with oysters, chicken and fresh fish dishes. ($10)

****(86) Gazela Vinho Verde (Portugal). Young, floral, light and smooth with just a refreshing and lively approach and soft finish; matches well with lighter foods or as an aperitif with semi-soft cheeses. ($6)


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