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What I’m Drinking Now: Spectacular White

I am on a white wine kick lately…probably because it is 100 degrees outside.   I have had some really great ones in the past few weeks, and some even better pairings both at home and on a spectacular trip to the big island of Hawaii.   Some are old favorites, some are new finds.  Some came from our cellar, some were sent for editorial consideration.  Here are a few ideas and pairings to try if you too need some light refreshment!

There is this great grocery store by the condo we stay on the sunny Kohala Coast.  They have one of the most surprising (and affordable) wine selections we have seen.   This trip we found great selections including 2006 Miner Chardonnay, 2007 Napa Valley Silver Oak (priced at $50), 2007 Penner Ash Pinot Noir, and a fantastic Frank Family 2008 Chardonnay.  We had the Frank Family with our dinner one night of spicy poke with scallions and a big fresh salad with a macadamia nut vinaigrette.  The Frank Family is definitely a bold white; barrel fermented for 11 months and aged on the lees, creating a creamy, buttery white that still maintains its vibrancy.  Citrus and honey aromas with a nutty finish, the wine softened the spice in the tuna and enhanced the incredible macadamia nut vinaigrette.

The Canoehouse at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel used to be a very traditional Hawaiian restaurant…lots of sushi and macadamia nut crusted mahi mahi.  Though the sushi is still available by request, Executive Sous Chef James Ortiaga has shifted the menu and created a restaurant with a strong French American influence…and it is as delicious as the views are stunning.  
Hamakua mushroom risotto with truffled mascarpone; Tamari glazed Moi fish with foie gras and avocado cream; a Big Island fish bowl stuffed with prawns, scallops, clams and mussels in a spicy coconut broth; and my favorite Hamakua heirloom tomato salad with watermelon, micro basil and a sherry vinaigrette. 
I changed this selection up a bit our last night and had the chef’s truffle vinaigrette on the side instead.  One of the best flavors I have ever had (and one I have been trying to recreate since.) 
We dined there twice and had the Grgich Hills Chardonnay on both nights.  With all the flavors enjoyed above the wine was an incredible pairing.  Crisp and light, with appropriate acidity matched with creaminess, this Chardonnay is one of Napa’s classics.  The wine does not go through malolactic fermentation (changing the tart malic acid to lactic acid) thus keeping the wine fresh and lively; however the wine is fermented and aged 10 months in French oak, softening the overall flavor and adding nutty, vanilla notes.   

We had dinner at our favorite spot on the Big Island, the Four Season’s Hualalai, which had re-oppend their Beach Tree Bar since we were last there.  Pumped up Pupus and regional cuisine, with an eclectic flair.  Truffled ricotta flatbread, incredible sushi, including a Hawaiian roll of tuna, mango and avocado, and Ahi tuna carpaccio with citrus, olive oil and black lava sea salt.  We paired with Domaine Drouhin’s Arthur Chardonnay.  The wine’s clean flavors helped the pure flavors of the fish shine.  Half of this Chardonnay is barrel fermented, the other half is stainless steal fermented, making this a very pure and elegant expression of the grape with a very French Chablis style.

We enjoyed Shafer Vineyards’ Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay with a cheese plate filled with triple cream brie, Crater Lake Blue from Rouge River Creamery and a super sharp white Vermont cheddar with green apples, dried apricots and fresh baguette.  As expected, this gorgeous white wine paired beautifully with each of these flavors.  Nicely balanced and filled with apricot, honeysuckle, apple and toasty aromas.   

We had dinner at 560 last weekend to enjoy some Dallas sushi.  Their Rainbow and Dragon rolls paired nicely with a bottle of Hartford Family Winery’s Four Hearts Vineyards Chardonnay.  Hartford Family Winery began in the early 1990′s and is dedicated to producing small lot Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and ZInfandel’s with character in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley.  The Four Hearts marries meyer lemon with light white peach and pear flavors.  Completely malolactic with spicy, creme-brulee aromas from 100% French oak barrel fermentation.

Going a bit lighter, I have had a few different Sauvignon Blancs lately that were both refreshing and filled with flavor and style.  I wrote about the Sbragia Chardonnay a few weeks ago; I tried their Sauvignon Blanc the other night and enjoyed it as much as the Chardonnay.  Much more of an Old World style Sauv Blanc, with good minerality and tropical fruit flavors of pineapple and banana.  The wine is presented with a Vino-Seal glass top closure protecting the aromas and crisp flavors of the wine.  This is a great aperitif  to wake up the palate, drunk on its own or with Marcona almonds or goat cheese.

I have had several Chilean Sauvignon Blancs lately, and universally will say these are Dallas summer wines.  Ultra light, refreshing and drinkable.  The flavor profile as a whole is slightly earthier than we get with New Zealand or California Sauv Blanc, but has those bright citrus fruit aromas of lemon, lime and grapefruit.  One I have enjoyed is Santa Rita’s Medalla Real Sauvignon Blanc, hand picked in Chile’s Leyda Valley and filled with grassy, citrus aromas and lemon peel mixed with mineral flavors.