With the start of spring comes the desire to sit on patios around town, sipping crisp, light, and approachable whites that are as refreshing on their palate as they are well-priced for the pocketbook, all under $20. Most under $15. Here are a few selections I have sipped recently that fit the bill, some that were sent for editorial consideration.
A bubbly is good any time of year, but for enjoying with brunch on a sunny Sunday, an Italian spumante or frizzante will start the day right. From Ricossa, a very low alcohol (5.5%), slightly sweet, slightly effervescent, frizzante 2012 Moscato d’Asti DOCG from the heart of Piedomonte. I had a chance to visit the vineyards in Asti with Ricossa a few years ago, taking in the breathtaking views of sweeping hillsides filled with family owned vineyards growing the grapes for this crisp, floral and fruity white wine. Though the alcohol is low and residual sugar is high, the acidity in the wine keeps it from being too sweet, instead presenting a balanced wine, great for enjoying with anything from fresh farmers cheese to salads with spring vegetables to spicy Asian cuisine. Priced right around $15, available at Spec’s and various Whole Foods locations throughout Dallas.
If you like something a little more bubbly, Prosecco is a great option from the start of spring through summer. Light and lively, Prosecco can easily stand on its own, or be the great base for your favorite Mimosa or Bellini. DaLuca 2012 Prosecco DOC is filled with lively lemon, stone fruit and apple notes enhanced with a touch of white flowers and spice. A great way to start an evening, but also low in alcohol (about 11%,) so you can sip anytime. Typically retails for around $15, available here for about $11.
Randy and Brad Lange, the 5th generation wine growing brothers of Lange Twins, pride themselves on growing certified sustainable fruit in their Lodi vineyards that make wine that is good to the earth and tasty to drink. Their Lange Twins Sauvignon Blanc balances freshness and acidity with texture, filled with citrus and tropical notes, consistent characteristics of the Sauvignon Blanc Musque clone. About $13, available locally at various Spec’s locations.
Rarely do we see Semillon on its own on a wine label, especially if it is not a sweet, dessert wine. L’Ecole No 41 however, the Walla Walla, WA winery that has been making wine and growing grapes in the region for over 30 years, produces a wine that makes this slightly floral, mineral and citrus filled variety shine. Blending in a touch of Sauvginon Blanc, very much as they do in Bordeaux, L’Ecole No 41 Semillon is sunshine in a glass, juicy and fresh, complex and refined, with good weight and structure. About 14.5% alcohol, so be careful sipping on its own or too early in the day (because you will want to….) enjoy with food, anything from light spring salads to grilled white fish or chicken. $14, available via their website.
Another wine you can feel good about drinking, as it does good by the earth is from Bonterra with their organically certified vineyards producing everything from Chardonnay to Zinfandel, though I recently tried their 2012 Viognier, planted in gravel filled loamy organic soils creating wine with both white flower and citrus notes, but also touches of crushed rock and mineral undertones with juicy stone fruit and a touch of spice, an easy drinking, sushi wine. About $10.50 at Total Wine and More stores.
One of the most interesting wines I have tried lately was Scaia 2012 Garganega/Trebbiano Soave/Chardonnay blend from Tenuta Sant’Antonio growing grapes in the Veneto region of Italy. Fresh white flowers, lemon peel and tropical notes with bright acidity, crispness, maintaining structure and body so the wine carried through from the first taste to the finish. Perfect on its own, with a low alcohol level of about 12.5%, or with shellfish or light pasta dishes. A steal for about $10 a bottle, available at Pogo’s.
Staying in Italy, I just tried a few whites from Alois Lageder 1823, founded in 1823 and still family owned, now on the 5th generation, making wines in the Alto Aldige region of Italy, putting quality ahead of quanity in the way they farm their estate vineyards and produce their fragrant white wines. 2012 Alois Lageder Muller Thurgau Dolomitit IGT, a variety better known in Germany than Italy, has adapted well to its surroundings producing a floral and fruit forward wine that melds hints of sweet spice and steely mineral notes with juicy apple and lemon pie notes. 2012 Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco Dolomiti IGT gives a little more depth to this sometimes subdued variety. Filled with stone and tree fruit notes (white peach, golden apple, ripe pear) with a light body and approachable style. Both perfect for spring, each retailing around $15 and available at Jimmy’s Italian Food Store.
A French style, but made in the heart of Sonoma at a winery that bears the meaning of the valley’s name, Valley of the Moon, the 2012 Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc also shows depth to this subtle grape, while maintaining an overall light profile, making it perfect siting on the front porch at sunset wine. From sustainably farmed fruit grown in Sonoma County, and partially aged in French oak the wine balanced acidity with roundness, filling the palate with Meyer lemon, golden peach and honey. Light and fresh, retailing for about $16 at Spec’s.
We drink a lot of Chardonnay in Dallas, the varietal continues to be the number one white in the country, and the flavor profile and price point on this pretty grape can be a bit all over the board. Yes, I will joyfully sip a Wild Yeast Chardonnay from Miner Family Wines any night of the week that I possibly can, but at $50 a bottle, that becomes hard to do everyday. There are great options though that are a bit more approachable and still please the palate.
Matchbook 2012 Old Head Chardonnay is a decidedly Californian style Chardonnay, at an incredible price of around $11.50 a bottle. One hundred percent barrel fermented, using both new and 2-3 year old oak, giving the wine richness and viscosity, layering light spice and vanilla notes with lemon-lime, golden apple, Asian pear and juicy melon for an easy drinking wine from the Dunnigan Hills appellation in Yolo County, CA near Sacramento…a region better known for their tomato industry but developing as an ideal place for growing grapes. $11.50 at Total Wine and More stores throughout Dallas.
Consistency and quality are two things that I look for in an everyday bottle of Chardonnay and year in, year out Robert Mondavi Winery delivers for their 2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay. Retailing for about $15 at Goody-Goody stores this creamy, lush, rich yet balanced Chardonnay leaps from the glass with juicy honeydew melon, mango, ripe pear and tropical fruit notes melding with toasted vanilla and hazelnut with a long, inviting finish.