While chardonnay is still the most popular American wine and sauvignon blanc is a solid second, many wine buyers are showing more interest in a diversity of flavor profiles from other grapes. Generally, you should find the wines in this column are good examples of their type, food-friendly and meant to be enjoyed at any time but especially with food.
• Viognier. Once quite rare in California, now the most-planted white Rhône variety, it produces wines with intense floral aromatics of peach, apricot, and apple, with notable viscosity. Listed in order of preference: 2017 Chappellet Cold Creek Vineyard (rich, luxurious, $38), followed closely by the 2017 J. Lohr Gesture (juicy, honeyed, $30) and 2018 Record Family Wines Paso Robles (silky, tangy, $25) and 2018 Opolo Central Coast (intense, viscous, $26).
• Roussanne. Very little roussanne is grown in the U.S. but its honeyed richness, savory, exotic, fruity notes can rival viognier. 2015 Sosie Vivio Vineyard ($38)
• Grenache blanc. A mutation of the red grape grenache and widely grown in the south of France, it produces fuller bodied citrus and melon. 2017 Halter Ranch Estate Bottled ($34)
• Picpoul blanc. One of the lesser-known Rhône grapes and rare in California, this wine reveals its promise of brisk citrus, apple, mineral and herbal qualities in California. 2018 Tablas Creek ($30)
• Muscat. Several varieties in the muscat family are grown all over the Mediterranean and can yield luscious dry or sweet wines known for floral and spicy characteristics. 2018 Eberle Muscat Canelli (medium sweet, $22)
• White pinot noir. Actually a white wine — think citrus, apple, pear, orange — from Burgundy’s premier red grape, made by not allowing the juice to have contact with the skins. 2018 Left Coast ($24)
• Pinot gris. This grape — noted for stone fruit, melon, and citrus — is a clone of pinot noir but more prominent in Alsace, Italy and Germany. It’s the leading white variety in Oregon — 2018 Chehalem Chehalem Mountains ($25), 2018 Left Coast “The Orchard” (crisp, tangy, $18) — and increasingly popular in California, 2018 Fel Anderson Valley (lush but taut, $25).
• Chenin blanc. Primarily associated with the Loire Valley but increasingly successful in South Africa, it can produce impressively complex, luscious dry or sweet wines. 2018 Dry Creek Vineyard “Dry” Clarksburg (bright apple and honey, $16) 2018 Chappellet “Molly Chappellet” (complex citrus, apricot, and stone fruits, $38)
• Riesling. 2017 Kung Fu Girl Columbia Valley ($13) The best wine from this iconic grape of Germany delightfully balances juicy expressions of apple, grapefruit or peach with bracing acidity, occasionally with steely, mineral components.
• Kerner. With origins in Germany, kerner (a cross between Riesling and trollinger) makes floral, citrusy wines and is also found in Italy.
This is the only planting in California. 2018 Sidebar Mokelumne River ($25)
• Grüner veltliner. Austria’s signature grape is seeing small but increasing plantings in California.
It produces lively, succulent wines, with citrus and tropical fruit, and some spice. 2017 Fiddlehead Cellars Fiddlestix Vineyard ($30)
• Albariño. Primarily identified with northwest Spain and Portugal, expect invigorating, floral, citrus and peach. 2017 Castoro Double Black Vineyard ($30) and 2018 Opolo ($26)
• Falanghina. An Italian grape, primarily cultivated in Campania in southern Italy, tends to aromatic apple, peach and almond, with herbal streaks. 2017 Castoro Cellars Whale Rock Vineyard ($30)