While chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are the most popular American white wines, 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 bright, aromatic, sometimes exotic and always food-friendly.
• Pinot gris/pinot grigio. A clone of pinot noir, pinot gris is most associated with Alsace and Italy (where it is known as pinot grigio). It’s the leading white variety in Oregon and increasingly popular in California.
Generally noted for stone fruit and citrus, there are stylistic differences: Pinot gris is expected to be fuller bodied and sumptuous, like the viscous caramel and pear of the 2016 Chehalem Three Vineyards ($20) and the crisp, tangy 2016 Left Coast The Orchard ($18), both from Oregon. From California, enjoy the lush honeysuckle of the 2016 MacMurray Russian River Valley ($20) and the energizing melon of the 2016 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve ($15).
Pinot grigio, generally lighter, fresher and more pure fruit, is exemplified in the of the 2016 J. Dusi ($24) — brisk, yet soft citrus and tangerine – from Paso Robles and the 2016 Edna Valley ($15) — core but overall soft.
• Riesling. Riesling has had to overcome a reputation as only a sweet wine, though it usually balances sugar and invigorating acidity. More and more, dry or off-dry Riesling _ intensely aromatic, impressively structured, and amazingly expressive — is taking its place at the table. From a certified organic vineyard, enjoy the 2017 Chateau Montelena Potter Valley ($27) for its ripeness and balance. The 2016 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Monterey County ($17) presents an easygoing, slightly sweet, softer textured drink.
• Chenin blanc. Primarily associated with the Loire Valley but increasingly successful in South Africa, it can produce impressively complex, luscious dry or sweet wines. The 2017 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry ($15), from a choice vineyard in Clarksburg in Lodi, is balanced with bright apple and honey. The most expensive wine here — 2016 Chappellet Pritchard Hill ($38) — rewards with a complex of citrus and stone fruits dominated by apple.
• Kerner. With origins in Germany, Kerner is rare in Europe and even rarer in California. That’s part of what makes the floral, citrusy 2017 Sidebar ($25) so interesting. From highly regarded winemaker David Ramey, the fruit comes from the only planting in California — the Mokelumne Glen Vineyard in Lodi.
• Grüner Veltliner. Austria’s signature grape has become so popular we have begun to see small but increasing plantings in California. It produces outgoing, lively wines, with succulent pear, citrus and tropical fruit, and hints of mineral, like the impressive 2017 Scheid ($24).
• Muscat. One of the most aromatic of grapes, muscat is grown all over the Mediterranean and can yield luscious dry or sweet wines. Bonterra Organic Vineyards brings a fragrant 2017 Dry Muscat ($16) that boasts vibrant tangerine and honeysuckle.
Albariño. Primarily identified with northwest Spain and Portugal, it makes invigorating, floral, citrusy wines. There are a few examples in California, notably in Lodi and Edna Valley. A good one is the 2017 Tangent Paragon Vineyard ($17), aromatic with high-toned citrus and stone fruit.
Grenache Blanc. A clone of the red grape grenache, grenache blanc is widely grown in the south of France. Scheid also supplied a nice honeyed, spicy 2016 ($24).