Spring 2011

Recent Releases: Best buy white wines

The following white wines were reviewed as "Best Buys" for being $15 and under. These reviews appeared in the "Recent Releases" section of the Spring 2011 issue of Wine Press Northwest.

Desert Wind Winery 2008 Desert Wind Vineyard Semillon, Wahluke Slope, $15

Outstanding: Barrel fermentation provides aromas of fig, apple butter, dried apricot, hot peach pie and alyssum blossom. There are more signs of the wood in the weighty palate with the continuation of rich fig and nuttiness, and the arrival of citrusy acidity and a sprig of mint lift the entire package. Enjoy with barbecued pork. (568 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Dusted Valley Vintners 2009 Boomtown Pinot Gris, Washington, $13

Excellent: Corey Braunel and Chad Johnson continue their successful partnership with the Milbrandt brothers in this gathering of fruit from Evergreen and the Ancient Lakes vineyards. It's full of fruit and acidity with a theme of lime, gooseberry, lychee, jasmine starfruit, lemongrass and honeysuckle. Serve with turkey breast or a chicken salad sandwich. (1,800 cases, 13.5% alc.)

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Firesteed Cellars 2008 Pinot Gris, Oregon, $12

Excellent: Fruit from the Rogue and Willamette valleys goes into the Pinot Gris for this project that first crushed in 1992. Lemon yogurt, apple box, coconut milk, facial powder and a hint of minerality tickle the nose. There are plenty of citrus notes in the drink with yellow grapefruit and orange juice concentrate. It's also easy to pick out flavors of Golden Delicious apple and unripe apricot. (12,418 cases, 12.4% alc.)

Firesteed Cellars 2008 Riesling, Oregon, $12

Excellent: Here marks just the second vintage of Riesling for Howard Rossbach and his winemaker, Bryan Croft. And yet it already ranks among the largest productions of this variety in Oregon. It's crafted with a mind on Alsace as the focus is on Granny Smith apple, slate, minerality and lots of petrol. The sugar is balanced at 1.3%, and shows only in the finish with a lick of Lemonhead candy. (6,000 cases, 10.4% alc.)

Gård Vintners 2009 Lawrence Vineyards Altruism Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, $14

Recommended: Avoiding wood allows this to show off accents of a long-hanging apple, grapefruit, jicama, banana peel and minerality. (479 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Henry Estate 2008 Pinot Gris, Umpqua Valley, $15

Excellent: Scott Henry IV, aka Scotty, continues the family tradition of value wines with this rather fascinating take on a grape that many take for granted. The nose brings in tangerine, lemon and talus aromas, along with potato skins and cantaloupe seed. It's a clean, refreshing and juicy drink with pineapple, pear and more lemony citrus. A touch of slate and butterscotch add to the mouthwatering finish. (1,100 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Henry Estate 2009 Riesling, Umpqua Valley, $12

Recommended: Some of the family plantings date back to 1972, and Riesling played a big role. This off-dry angle brings accents of apple blossom, pumpkin flesh, cooked pears, orange zest and starfruit, capped by lemony acidity and baked apple. (255 cases, 9.5% alc.)

Kathken Vineyard 2009 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $15

Excellent: A product of Ken and Kathy Slusser's vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills, it's a lively showing of stainless steel fermentation with six months of sur lie aging. That imparts fun aromas of fresh-cut pineapple, orange essence, grapefruit, lime and pine tree notes. There's balance on the palate with star fruit, jicama and a lick of baby aspirin before the finish of yellow grapefruit pith and some minerality. (700 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Kyra Wines 2009 Evergreen Vineyard Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, $13

Excellent: The Baerlochers' relationship with the Milbrandt brothers goes back more than a decade because this marks the 10th vintage from this vineyard near the Gorge at George. It's a dry drink of quince, Texas pink grapefruit, pears and Jonagold apple. Serve with cracked crab. (192 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Lake Chelan Winery 2009 Riesling Sweet, Lake Chelan, $15

Excellent: It's definitely Riesling and surely sweet with tones of Gala apple, white peach, diesel, slate and honeysuckle. The finish of 3.4% residual sugar shows up as 7UP topped with lemon bitters, and tasting room visitors will love it. (289 cases, 13% alc.)

Mount Baker Vineyards & Winery 2009 Barrel Select Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, $13

Excellent: Randy Finley's ownership of this winery in Everson, Wash., continues to push value, even for a wine that requires some barrels. David Traynor sent half of this lot from Crawford, Copeland and Lonesome Spring vineyards, through surlie aging. The perfumy package is akin to lemon plank taffy, lavender and cane sugar. A perception of sweet pears, pineapple, banana and sugared yellow grapefruit sections makes this a quaffer with pleasing acidity. (13.7% alc.)

Mount Baker Vineyards 2009 Pinot Gris, Washington, $8

Recommended: A rather austere nose of Asian pear, yellow grapefruit, starfruit and dry popcorn transcends into a drink of more pears, lemon custard and a fleshy Gala apple. Late acidity and a lick of slate make this a nice summertime quaffer. (345 cases, 13.7% alc.)

Ste. Chapelle 2009 Winemaker's Series Dry Gewurztraminer, Snake River Valley, $9

Outstanding: Chuck Devlin takes particular pride in this bottle, which stands as quite true to the variety, yet against the grain. There's a big spray of orange oil in the nose with grapefruit, gooseberry and lime peel along with minerality and petrol. As a drink, it's bone-dry and very refreshing with lemon bitters, lychee nut and white grapefruit pith. This no doubt will be enjoyed during the winery's 35th anniversary this year. (2,200 cases, 13.5% alc.)

San Juan Vineyards 2009 Siegerrebe, Puget Sound, $15

Outstanding: Yvonne Swanberg's island winery continues its tradition of excellence with this German cross of Gewurztraminer and Madeleine Angevine. Vines now in their second decade yield notes of Uncola, Jonagold apples, fresh pineapple, a peach shake and a dusty yellow rose. It's pear, peach and passion fruit in a dry style on the palate. Grapefruit bitters, starfruit and a slaty finish should make this a good foil for briny oysters. (588 cases, 13.3% alc.)

St. Laurent Winery 2009 Estate Riesling, Columbia Valley, $12

Recommended: The Mracheks rely on their Malaga Estate, which features one of the more remarkable views in Washington wine country, for this off-dry drink. It offers full flavors of honeydew melon, cantaloupe and juicy pear, backed by a finish of lemony citrus to balance the residual sugar (2.4%). (400 cases, 11.7% alc.)

Waterbrook Winery 2009 Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, $11

Excellent: There were only three other wineries in Walla Walla when Eric Rindal created this label in 1984. This variety, however, is a relative newcomer to the portfolio that John Freeman lords over at the 50,0000-square-foot facility. There is a huge greeting of tropical fruit aromas, followed by apple blossom and talcum powder. The palate brings more appealing tropical fruit, including passion fruit. A bit of sheen adds complexity, as does the finish of citrus pith. (1,958 cases, 13.2% alc.)

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