Even in winter, whites bring a taste of summer
Ah, yes, late January in Western Pennsylvania. Capricious Old Man Winter's bone-chilling blasts bring snow and ice to blanket the landscape. And then, just as milder breezes provide tantalizing rays of relief, returning waves of frigid air invariably test frayed spirits yet again.
In the midst of such nerve-racking unpredictability, any reminders of mild days ahead offer welcome respite. Enjoying well-chilled, crisp midwinter whites with delicious dishes does the trick nicely. Stay warm and comfortable inside, and try:
2010 Weingut Herman Moser Gr?ner Veltliner "Per Due," Kremstal, Austria (Luxury 28091; $11.99): Since 2002, the husband-and-wife winemaking team of Martin and Carmen Moser have focused on the Kremstal as ideal terroir for gr?ner veltliner vines. Ample, brilliant daytime sun gives way to cooling nighttime breezes off the Danube River. The diurnal swings foster slow, steady ripening of grapes with superb acidity.
Soils of sandy clays interspersed with fine gravels enable the fruit to develop intriguing aromas and depth of flavors. Cool-temperature fermentation in stainless steel captures the fruitiness unaffected by oak influences.
Delicate citrus, green apple and light peppery aromas unfold to grapefruit, lime and apple flavors. Mouthwatering mineral notes carry through an enticing, well balanced dry finish. Enjoy it with mussels steamed in white wine, shallots and cream, served with pommes frites. Highly recommended.
2010 Domaine Emile Balland "Les Beaux Jours" Blanc, Coteaux de Giennois, France (Luxury 36382; $17.99): Located in Bonny-sur-Loire, a village just down the Loire River from the better known Sancerre appellation, vigneron Emile Balland cultivates sauvignon blanc in the Coteaux de Giennois appellation's flinty silex and chalky limestone soils. This lends classic, complex "grassy" aromas and zesty acidity to the fruit.
Balland harvests as gently as possible by hand and then removes stems from 90 percent of the grapes to frame the fruit's distinct terroir. Fermentation in stainless-steel vats again preserves freshness. Cold stabilizing the new wine on the lees -- the spent yeast cells -- creates subtle, creamy richness.
In the glass, grapefruit, quince and peach aromas open to racy grapefruit and quince flavors with lovely, refreshing mineral notes. The beautifully balanced, dry finish delivers ample fruitiness to provide a terrific foil for creamy veal stew. Highly recommended.
2010 Eberle Winery Viognier, Mill Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles, California (Luxury 26785; $22.99): Pittsburgh-born and -bred Gary Eberle pioneered the planting of Rh?e varietals such as syrah and viognier in Paso Robles. He successfully demonstrated that the grapes can ripen fully in Paso Robles' torrid climate without losing vital, refreshing acidity.
Today, Eberle's delicious viognier continues as an important benchmark. Benefitting from attentive vineyard work and a restrained hand in the winery and barrel room, the wine's marvelous aromas and delightful balance evoke France's leading Condrieu wines made from the same variety.
The Eberle Viognier's burnished yellow color unfolds bewitching honeysuckle and citrus aromas. Ripe peach, pineapple and honey flavors layer with zesty acidity and refreshing mineral notes through a dry finish. Enjoy it with seared jumbo sea scallops with citrus sauce. Highly recommended.
Domaine Marie-Pierre Manciat Pouilly-Fuiss?"Les Petites Bruy?es," France (Luxury 36003; $29.99): The blessed 2009 vintage provided outstanding, plentiful fruit for whites throughout Burgundy. Robust demand for wines from premium appellations such as Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet has naturally driven prices up to well over $50 for even village-level wines.
So, it makes sense to seek whites from terrific producers from Burgundy's vineyards just a little further south in appellations such as the C?e Chalonnaise and the M?onnais. The latter region includes certain limestone rich, hillside vineyards in Pouilly-Fuiss?and other sub-appellations that in years like 2009 can deliver particularly elegant, delicious whites.
Vigneronne Marie-Pierre Manciat, for example, meticulously tends older chardonnay vines with organic methods. The efforts coax excellent fruit from the vineyard.
In the winery, aging in both new and older barrels adds subtle, aromatic complexity. Resting the wines in barrel on the lees creates pleasant creaminess.
This lovely wine's light yellow color offers apple, white flower and honey notes. Flavors of apples, apricots, pears, and honey meld with the rich, creamy texture balanced by a streak of rich acidity. The well-balanced, dry finish makes a beautiful match with pan-seared grouper. Highly recommended.