When it comes to considering that apéritif or your summer-time all-day sipper, there are certainly a few go-to white wine grapes that rush to the front of mind. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling are all jockeying for the slots at the top of everyone’s list. Still, if you are looking for an adventurous break from the norm, we would like to highlight these not so US indigenous European varietals that are not the usual suspects.
Albariño is a highly-aromatic grape that grows best in the Rias Baixas area of Spain’s North-West corner just above Portugal, referred to as “Green Spain”, and produces high acid wines that pair perfectly with lighter fare, especially seafood and vegetables. Wine Making Duo/Husband & Wife Team Charlie and Brittany Hamilton of Pressley Vineyards craft a lovely rendition of Albariño from grapes grown in the Sacramento Delta area of CA. Their 2019 Vintage is “Refreshing and crisp, a light-bodied wine with a bright nose, hints of honeydew melon and satsuma. On the palate you will taste lemon peel and grapefruit with a nice touch of acidity on the finish.”
Chenin Blanc is a Noble Loire Valley favorite grown in and made famous by the French region of Vouvray, where it is often uniquely presented in an off-dry, slightly sweet version that pairs well with many different types of cheese and charcuterie. Winemaker Taylor Berkley Boydstun of T. Berkley Wines takes his inspiration from the Loire to create his 2019 Norgard Chenin Blanc. He refers to it as being “Another stunner from Tim Norgard’s old vine Chenin Blanc block at Sterling Ranch just outside Ukiah. Still fermented in a blend of different vessels, this wine spent just over 11 months on lees before being racked to tank to over vintage and marry before bottling. Beautifully structured with notes of lanolin, lemon curd, jasmine, and honeysuckle.”
Scheurebe is widely regarded as the most successful of the many German grape crossings that emerged in the 20th Century. It was named after its creator, grape breeder Dr. Georg Scheu, who made the initial crossing in 1915 of Riesling and Bukettraube. The resulting Scheurebe is high yielding with slightly less acidity than Riesling and pairs well with pork schnitzel, potato salad, apples, and spicy Thai dishes. Wine Maker Brook Bannister’s “2019 Scheurebe comes from just two tiny rows in the East corner of Alexander Valley under Geyser Peak. Scheurebe is known for black currant aromas and flavors. They are definitely present, but this isn’t a one-dimensional wine. I was able to get stone fruit and citrus flavors, and there is a nice creaminess to it that provides for some length on the palate. This 2019 Scheurebe has a beautiful floral nose as well, and given its rarity in the US, this bottling is unique and captivating in the context of domestic white wines.”
Consider this your invitation to pick up your Passport to Wine, as you get out of your comfort zone and discover a new wine coming from a hidden place that is likely tucked away on a secret hillside just beyond the endless sea of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling vineyards that cover most of California’s wine country...Cheers to the Deliciously Unfamiliar!