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Randall Murray: It’s time to take a quick break from Chardonnay
Randall Murray
Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at murrwine@aol.com. His column publishes monthly.

OK, folks, hope you got your chardonnay fix from the Wine of the Month because today’s column is an ABC about white wines.That stands for Anything But Chardonnay.

Last month we explored alternatives to the popular red wine Cabernet Sauvignon. Today it is Chardonnay’s turn to be absent from class.

For decades the white wine of choice has been Chardonnay. Nothing wrong with that. But as the world of wine expands and explodes, the alternatives to “a glass of Chardonnay” with a meal or as a cocktail wine are virtually endless.

WINE OF THE MONTH

STONY HILL VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2015

The wine: Classic, dry but lush white table wine.

The grapes: 100 percent Chardonnay.

The source: Napa Valley, California.

The verdict: Sometimes only the best will do. And Stony Hill Vineyard has been producing some of Napa Valley’s best Chardonnay for more than 60 years. Fred and Eleanor McCrea bought the property in the late 1940s. Since the ‘50s the wines have become iconic, with every vintage selling out quickly. This latest edition truly is classic. It’s Burgundian in style; crisp, restrained with subtle fruit and minerality in the mouth. But flowing beneath is a richness of flavor and texture, undisturbed by the presence of oak. Wine maker Mike Chelini used only neutral oak for aging. It is wonderful to be able to go back in time and get a taste of what a grand wine good Chardonnay can be. This is a limited production wine so you may have to search hard for it. Or just go online.

The price: About $50.


Winemakers around the world are using a wide variety of white wine grapes; some old, some relatively new and some rescued from oblivion by producers who felt a sense of obligation to the heritage aspect of little-used grapes.

Here’s a partial list of alternatives to Chardonnay: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pecorino, Vermentino, Marsanne, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Pinot Gris and Grigio, Riesling, Pinot Blanc ... and on and on.

Today we have a quartet of strikingly different white wines from California, Washington state, Oregon and the Cotes du Rhone of France. They display different styles, flavors, aromas, mouth  feel and texture. But they have one thing in common: They all are terrific food wines with seafood, chicken, veal, veggie dishes and some with Asian fare.

Domaine Galevan Libre Expression 2013 — We’ll start with the driest wine of the four. It is crisp and dry, but full-flavored from a blend of traditional white wine grapes Marsanne, Roussanne and Clairette from France’s Rhone Valley. There are waxy notes in this wine, and a yellow hue that makes it inviting. Lots of fruit — think green apple — in the nose. Unlike most whites, the Domaine Galevan will take some age; this is 5 years old. This winery has been in the hands of the same family for nine generations. And Coralie Goumarre is the first woman to take the reins of the Domaine. About $12.

Terra d’Oro Chenin Blanc and Viognier 2016 — This wine is softer, without the linear aspect of the Rhone. These two grapes produce softer, more malleable wines with lots of forward fruit in the mouth. Chenin Blanc is the great white wine grape of France’s Loire Valley and of South Africa. Viognier established its credentials in the northern Rhone Valley, but is widely cultivated elsewhere ... including in northeast Georgia. This one comes from hilly vineyards around Clarksburg in Yolo County California. I find tropical fruit flavors and aromas ... mango and papaya, with an undertone of lemon. Great sipper on a hot day. About $14.

Cedar & Salmon Pinot Gris 2016 — This bright, crisp wine comes from Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley. The red wine celebrity from that area is Pinot Noir. But the white is Pinot Gris. It’s basically the same grape as Pinot Grigio, only with a French pedigree, not Italian. I find this one to be intense with noticeable acidity, characteristic of a good Pinot Gris. It has a clean, fresh feel and taste, with a suggestion of citrus in the finish. The wine maker suggests matching it with chili lime chicken kabobs. About $20.

Snoqualmie Vineyards Columbia Valley Gewurztraminer 2012 — I am a Gewurz freak! I love the spicy, fruity impressions from a good wine made from this exciting grape. It’s never established any degree of popularity in this country, except with a few wine geeks. The name’s hard to say, and some folks have trouble matching this wine with food. But Gewurztraminer can be great. This one has a depth of flavor with hints of clove and other spices. I love to sip this by itself, but it’s perfect with a pork roast or thick, juicy pork chops. About $11.

ABC class is over. You are excused to rush off and pop the cork, or unscrew the top, from a bottle of Chardonnay.


Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at murrwine@aol.com. His column publishes monthly.

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