Sep 9, 2013

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Extraordinary White Wines of the World

Adelsheim AuxerroisI sampled a lot of white wine this summer, from Oregon Pinot Gris’ and Washington Sauvignon Blancs to South African Viogniers and Australian Chardonnays.  Through the many samples, I kept a notebook with tasting notes on the white wines that were simply extraordinary – these are not your average white wines.


Adelsheim Auxerrois 2012 ($25): Unprecedented balance in this super delicious Auxerrois bring together fruit aromas and flavors of pears, lemon zest, orange blossom and hints of herbs with pleasing minerality and elegant acidity. Lush and juicy, yet crisp and refreshing, the Adelsheim Auxerrois is absolutely exquisite.

Adelsheim is located in Newberg, Oregon, in the heart of the Chehalem Mountains AVA (a sub AVA of the Willamette Valley).  As one of Oregon’s founding wineries, David and Ginny Adelsheim purchased their gently sloping, southern exposure property in 1971.  Sitting at 500 feet above the valley floor, the land consisted of clay-loam soils and was sheltered by the Chehalem Mountains.  Although the Chehalem Mountains in 1971 was not known as a viticulture area, David and Ginny pursued their dreams of making exceptional wine in the Willamette Valley.  By 1972, the Adelsheim’s (with help from friends and family), planted their first 15 acre vineyard with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling.  They now farm over 237 acres of vineyards in the north Willamette Valley, and 2.3 acres are dedicated to the Auxerrois varietal, planted in 2002 on a north slope at the Ribbon Springs Vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA.  Auxerrois (pronounced oak-sair-wah) is a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc, and it’s also the name of the area surrounding the town of Auxerre, near Chablis, France.  The variety, however, has disappeared from that area and all other parts of Burgundy, and it’s believed that there are less than 5700 acres of Auxerrois planted in the entire world.  In the U.S., the Adelsheim’s only know of two other producers of Auxerrois.  They believe that there are two keys to growing Auxerrois so that it can become exciting wine, “The first is planting on a cool site. The second is avoiding vineyard draught stress.” Their vineyard management of the Ribbon Springs Vineyard incorporates both, and their success clearly shines in the outstanding 2012 Auxerrois.

silkbush viognierSOUTH AFRICA

Silkbush Mountain Vineyards Viognier 2012 ($16.99):  Crisp and refreshing, yet filled with finesse with its creamy, lush mouthfeel, the melon, peach and apricot flavors are highlighted by zesty lime.  Fruit, acid and alcohol are in complete harmony, creating a wine with perfect balance and a super pleasing dry finish.  This is definitely not your typical Viognier, and it is certainly the best Viognier I’ve ever had.  I find many Viogniers tend to display overly powerful floral aromas and flavors, and they are often heavy and draining on the palate; especially, with Viogniers that have spent time on oak. The unwooded ’12 Silkbush Viognier is elegant with unique texture and great depth – truly a stellar Viognier.

Silkbush Mountain Vineyards is located in the heart of  South Africa’s new Breedekloof district in the Breede River Valley.  Known for dramatic landscapes of towering mountain cliffs, hills, valleys and views unlike anywhere else, Silkbush Mountain Vineyards is considered a very special place.  Originally farming apricots, peaches, pears and nectarines, as well as grapes, Silkbush farm became a modern wine farm in 2000, when it was revived by viticulturalist Anton Roos (a tenth-generation South African) and Dave Jefferson, along with his partners, a Napa and Sonoma vineyard owner.  The two shaped the wild and natural terroir of Silkbush Mountain into a pristine place to grow grapes.  By 2004, the grapes were sold to some of South Africa’s most prized wineries, and in 2008, Silkbush began bottling their own wine; starting with just 58 cases.  Currently farming approximately 215 acres of grape vines, varietals include South Africa’s heritage grape, Pinotage, Bordeaux’s noble red grapes, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Semillon.  They presently sell the Viognier and the Lion’s Drift Pinotage – waiting in my cellar to be sampled.


Cloudburst Chardonnay 2011 ($160):  Completely unaware of the hefty price tag when I tasted the Cloudburst Chardonnay, I was immediately taken back by its distinctively rich and alluring aromas.  Expressive, complex and elegant honeydew melon, pears and Granny Smith apples were highlighted by wet stone and fall spices. Solid acidity resembled a palate-pleasing zesty lime, and the finish was incredibly long.  It’s extremely well balanced, smooth and silky in the mouth – quite a treat for the senses.

Cloudburst is located in Australia’s southwest corner, in the Margaret River region. Considered to be a biodiversity paradise, there’s a thriving diversity of plants and animals in an area of untouched ecosystems – many of the animals live and visit the Cloudburst farm – a farm that connects to the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. To enable delivery of the varietals purest expression and to allow nature to works its miracles naturally, the vineyards are farmed Biodynamically and are not irrigated. Much like in many of the Oregon wines I’m so familiar with, terroir is apparent in the wine, and the disciplined and regimented rules of farming Biodynamically most certainly has its benefits.


Poggio al Tesoro – Solosole Vermentino IGT 2012 ($20):  Solosole, meaning “just sunshine” or “only sun” in Italian, is the perfect description of this Vermentino that resembles liquid sunshine.  I’ve always been a fan of Vermentino wines, but the Solosole wholly captured my heart with its invigorating freshness and crisp acidity. Pure and clean in the mouth, this 100 percent Vermentino displays lovely aromas highlighted by pears and lime zest with a hint of pineapple and banana – just picture lying on the beaches of the Bahamas.  Although it’s rich and intense, it obtains its crisp, refreshing, tropical qualities because of the solid acidic backbone.  I’ve never had a Vermentino quite this delicious.

Poggio al Tosoro is a 173 acre vineyard located in Bolgheri, in Tuscany, Italy.  The Vermentino grapes used in the production of the Solosole came from the Corsican clone (considered to be the best for producingVermentino).  When the Allegrini family, owners of Poggio al Tosoro, were looking to add a vineyard to the estate’s holdings, they discovered an area known as “Le Sondraie” and soon realized its sandy, seaside soils were perfect for growing Vermentino.  Before deciding on the clone of Vermentino to be planted, owner Marilisa Allegrini did thorough research on where to find the highest quality clones.  According to Poggio al Tosoro’s winemaker, Nicoli Biasi, “She [Marilisa] also knew that taming the natural vigor of the variety would be key when creating a wine of concentration.  Another important criteria for selection was finding clones that would maintain their acidity and mature later in the season, an important element in order to create an age-worthy white wine. Her research took her all the way to France, where she found a nursery that was doing some very interesting work with varietals from Corsica.” Marilisa’s research and decision on the Corsican clone is clearly evident in the quality of the Solosole Vermentino.

mackay riesling2WASHINGTON, USA

Mackay Epiphany Riesling 2012 (Alexandria Nicole Cellars):  On a recent media trip to Eastern Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA (which I have plenty of stories to tell and wines to write about), owner Jarrod Boyle gave me about a case of different Alexandria Nicole Cellars wine to take home with me. Since then, I’ve discovered many treasures inside that box, and the Mackay Riesling was one of the best – it is most definitely my kind of Riesling. Crisp, dry and totally refreshing on the palate, aromas and flavors of tangerine, key lime pie and grapefruit were highlighted by captivating acidity and vibrant minerality.  Consumed on a steamy hot Willamette Valley afternoon, this was like heaven on earth.  I simply put my feet up and soaked in the suns rays while keeping my palate wet and refreshed with a Riesling like none other.

Alexandria Nicole Cellars is dedicated to making hand-crafted, boutique wines from their own 267 acre Destiny Ridge Estate Vineyard.  It’s located on towering bluffs that overlook the Columbia River Gorge in an area that boasts a very arid and often windy climate, Horse Heaven Hills.  Both large (Chateau Ste. Michelle) and small (Martinez and Martinez) wineries have staked a claim to stellar and highly rated Cabernet Sauvignons.  Spending a few days in this area gave me the opportunity to explore this incredible region and some of its well-known, and lesser-known, wineries that are truly producing some outstanding, high-quality wines. From Rieslings and Chardonnays to Syrahs and Malbecs, there’s a diverse selection that can’t be overlooked, in spite of their big, bold, juicy Cabernets that tend to get much-deserved attention from esteemed wine critics.


*These wines were provided to me for review purposes.