Typically when the weather turns colder (which every indication tells me we will have consistently soon) palates switch from wanting patio pleasing whites to hearty, warming reds; however there are white wines that are enjoyable throughout the cooler days. They tend to be rounder, more complex and layered with toasty, spicy flavors and don’t need to be served super chilled to be enjoyed as an aperitif or over dinner. Here are a few ideas for enjoying heartier winter white wines, some have been sent for editorial consideration, some I just love.
Lail Vineyard 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Georgia from Robin Lail is made from Yountville and Coombsville Vineyard fruit in Napa Valley. Aged 18 months in 100% new French oak barrels after fermentation the wine has distinct aromas of vanilla, dried golden raisins and honey with a hint of spice from the oak aging, with bright fruit flavors of golden apples, melon and vanilla. I go back and forth on the value of decanting, but having this one after decanting allowed the aromas to open nicely and made for a very enjoyable wine.
2007 Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay from Napa Valley has intense aromas of toasted almonds and coconut balanced with light tropical fruit and citrus followed by creamy caramel with layers of honey, baked apples and pears. Keeping the wine unfiltered allows the rich flavors of the fruit, as well as their Carneros vineyard terrior, to shine.
Ancien’s 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay is one I just recently tried on a trip to Napa and was really impressed with. From Hayne’s Vineyard fruit grown in Napa the wine is elegant with an appropriate balance of acidity with peach, melon and toasty meringue aromas and full flavors of pear, honeydew and green apple flavors. Though it was tasty now, it will age well over the next few years to become richer.
From one of my favorites in Willamette Valley, Adelsheim Caitlin’s Reserve Chardonnay . Filled with stone fruit, lemon curd, spice and green apple. There are many different styles of Chardonnay coming out of Oregon, this one captures the beauty of growing fruit in Willamette, while bringing round, lush fruit flavors to the wine.
Hanzell 2008 Chardonnay from Sonoma County. Situated on a beautiful piece of land high in the Mayacamas Mountains, that though you are just minutes off the highway you feel like you are in another world. Hanzell produces just two varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and they do them both well, though I am personally a fan of the Chardonnay best. Lively, yet subtle, elegant yet vivacious, this is a wine to drink on its own or with a meal of seared sea scallops in a lemon cream sauce and the flavors of the wine should enhance the rich shellfish. Aromas of lemon peel, green apple and vanilla are followed by flavors of apple, pear and caramel with solid minerality.
Foppiano Russian River 2009 Chardonnay- still young in its bottling, but lively with ripe pear, spice notes like clove and nutmeg with citrus, orange blossom and pear on the finish. Only 525 cases are made with the beauty of Russian River fruit being the focus, allowing the fruit to shine, with 30% of the wine going through malolactic fermentation giving a creamy texture to the overall mouthfeel.
Stag’s Leap Arcadia Vineyard Chardonnay is an ideal wine for pairing with roasted chicken or white bean stew. Made in a Burgundian style the wine is filled with aromas of lemon, apple and fresh flowers with spiced, baked apple and vanilla flavors. A balanced wine with good acidity and slight creaminess.
Franciscan 2007 Cuvee Sauvage Chardonnay is one of the winery, known for making small lot wines and blending the best together to create the ideal flavor, limited release wines. From Carneros fruit the wine does not undergo fermentation with cultured yeasts. This, like one of my other favorites – Miner Wild Yeast Chardonnay - is made by using the wild yeast strains that float through the air to ferment the wine. These yeast strains are very representative of place, ensuring that the beauty of Napa Valley and Carneros shine through in the wine with distinct citrus, honeysuckle and apricot flavors.
For bubbly, a constant favorite is Mumm Napa,and their Brut Reserve is the ideal sparkler for a holiday celebration, as this is their tribute to both their Champagne heritage, but also their Napa Valley home. Only 4500 cases of the reserve are made each year, from the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes in the vineyard. The bubbly is complex, with toasty biscuit, dried apricot and vanilla aromas followed by honeysuckle, fig and mocha flavors.