The Oenophiliac

Bringing you stories from the world of wine and beer.

Napa tasting highlights whites

Chenin Blanc and Albariño came out top in a tasting of Napa Valley whites made from grapes other than Chardonnay and Sauvignon.

In the US, Chardonnay outsells all other wines, red or white and Pinot Grigio/Gris, Moscato and Sauvignon Blanc follow from there in white wine popularity.

In Napa Valley, however, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are the two reigning white wines of the region.

There is a surprise, however, waiting for you on your next trip to Napa Valley.

The Napa Valley Vintner and St. Helena Star Tasting Panel recently reviewed the “other white wines of Napa Valley” and tasted through white wines other than the region’s top two varieties.

Panelists included Napa Valley winemakers and other key industry individuals including: Ted Henry of Jarvis, Cameron Parry at Chateau Montelena, Pierre Bierbent of Signorello Vineyards, Craig Becker at Somerston Wine Co., Mark Skinner of von Strasser Winery, John Skupny of Lang & Reed, Jim Sullivan of Castello di Amorosa, Elizabeth Vianna of Chimney Rock Winery, Gerard Zanzonico of Del Dotto Vineyards, Kristen Belair of Honig Vineyard & Winery, Eric Carpenter of Dean & Deluca, Bill Nancarrow of Duckhorn Wine Company, Anne Vawter of Ziata Wines, Matt Crafton of Chateau Montelena, Master Sommelier Bob Bath, and Barbara Trigg of Appellation America.

Meeting at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone’s Rudd Center this month, the panelists were eager to see how Napa Valley’s versions of Moscato/Muscat and Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris were tasting and what else Napa Valley is producing.

The variety was surprising. In addition to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Moscato and Pinot Grigio, there were Viogniers, Albariños, Rieslings, Gewürztraminer, Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Semillon, Chenin Blanc and white blends included in the tasting.

Some of these wines are very limited production, especially given their acreage.

Albariño, for example, has only 104 acres in California, 13 of which are in Napa County. Gewurztraminer has a more impressive 1,500 acres in California, but only 15 in Napa County.

Increased plantings come with the very popular Moscato at 1,705 acres in the state and 60 acres in Napa County, but really clock in with Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris which has 12,529 bearing acres in the state, and 240 in Napa County.

Following a blind tasting of several flights, the panelists discussed these other white wines.

From a retail stand-point, Eric Carpenter of the fine purveyors, Dean & Deluca, noted that although the Viogners were good, Napa Valley Viognier is a hard sell with the average bottle price of $40. He added that lesser known white varieties required a hand sell to make it to the cash register.

John Skupny, owner of Lang & Reed, noted “With the warm Napa Valley climate, it is difficult to do delicate.” Yet Skupny and the other panelists agreed, there were a wide variety of styles from the same variety – some having a more delicate touch and others embracing richer, riper fruit.

Chris Phelps, winemaker of Swanson Vineyards, also touched on the weather. “We are a warm region for some of these varieties. Some of the wines lacked character, yet some were stand-outs.”

Keith Hock of Schramsberg Vineyards was more impressed, finding good aromatics in the wines.

Bill Nancarrow, winemaker of Duckhorn Wine Company, agreed, noting “The wines are pretty well crafted, and overall, pretty interesting… There are some high quality wines in these flights.”

When Master Sommelier, Bob Bath, was asked what he thought of the wines, he quickly quipped “I like some of these price points”, to which everyone enthusiastically agreed.

Bath also felt that while some may think of Napa Valley as one-dimensional [with its Cabernet Sauvignon], here was a great display of variety.

There is a lot to choose from when choosing a white wine from Napa Valley.

Story by Catherine Seda

Courtesy of The Drinks Business


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