Here I am again inviting you to join me in expanding our wine palates. Experts say there are 10,000 grape varieties and 3,000 commercial wines in the world. So we’ll have to hurry to taste them all.
Now, a mainline wine such as chardonnay is fine. Great, in fact. But it’s too popular, to the point that there’s a counter-movement called ABC, for “anything but chardonnay.” Cabernet sauvignon’s the same.
Let’s try some new flavors and take notes. Then, the next time we want to match a fine meal with a compatible wine, we’ll have a nice, long list from which to choose.
Here are some wines that, while not really unusual, may have only infrequently graced our tables. They’re worth trying.
▪ 2015 Raptor Ridge Oregon Estate Gruner Veltliner, Chehalem Mountains (100 percent gruner veltliner): exotic floral aromas and flavors of ripe pears, golden apples, lemons and limes, crisp and lively; $20.
Gruner veltliner is a white grape grown mostly in Austria and surrounding countries. Light and dry, it has spicy lemon-lime flavors and is often seen as an alternative to sauvignon blanc. It pairs well with roast fish and chicken.
▪ 2012 Schramsberg Vineyards Cremant Demi-Sec sparkling wine, Napa Valley (74 percent flora, 16 percent pinot noir, 10 percent chardonnay): lightly sweet, fine bubbles, with flavors of candied fruit and baked apples and a nutty finish; $40.
Cremant, French for “creamy,” means sparkling wines with softer bubbles, under half the pressure of the bubbles in regular sparkling wines. It goes well with spicy Asian foods and moderately sweet desserts such as fruit tarts, pound cake and gingerbread.
▪ 2015 Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc, Napa Valley (100 percent grenache blanc): lush and full-bodied, crisp, no oak aging, with flavors of apricots and ripe peaches and a mineral-scented finish; $22.
A relative to the red grenache grape, grenache blanc is grown mostly in France’s Rhone valley and northeast Spain. The French pair it with roast pork and chicken. Priest Ranch is the only Napa winery to make it.
▪ 2012 Falesco Ferentano Lazio white wine, IGT, Lazio, Italy (100 percent roscetto): light golden hue, full, lush aromas and flavors of mangos, peaches and vanilla, long finish; $25.
The ancient roscetto grape, indigenous to the Montefiascone region in central Italy was nearly extinct before winemaker Riccardo Cotarella brought it back. It goes well with roasted game and rich casseroles.
▪ 2015 Toad Hollow Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay, “Francine’s Selection,” Mendocino County (100 percent chardonnay): crisp and fruity, with aromas and flavors of pears, melons and herbs; $15.
Unoaked chardonnay: After a decade of aging chardonnay too long in oak, sometimes creating sawmill-scented, butterscotch-flavored wines, many California winemakers are pulling back and letting the chardonnay grape do its own thing once more.
▪ 2014 Romero Torrontes, Cafayate region, Argentina, (100 percent torrontes): fruity and exotic, with perfume-like aromas and flavors of peaches, limes and minerals; $17.
Torrontes: Probably Argentina’s finest white wine, it goes nicely with spicy Thai curries and other Asian dishes.
▪ Nonvintage Piccini “Memoro” Vino Rosato d’Italia, multi-region, Italy (40 percent negroamaro from Puglia, 20 percent montepulciano from Abruzzo, 20 percent nero d’avola from Sicily, 10 percent merlot from Veneto): vivid pink hue, fruity aromas and lightly sweet flavors of tart red cherries and mint, full body, rich; $12.
The Piccini family makes wines with grapes from throughout Italy. This rose goes nicely with grilled chicken and grilled vegetables.