In case you haven’t noticed, most wine writers are acid heads. It is practically Pavlovian. Why? Because, simply put, acid is the agent of mouths watering: Acidity is like a golden ticket to refreshment.
Not long ago, most California white wines weren’t known for their acidity; that’s because most were styled after a rather ponderous iteration of Chardonnay, and were relatively thick and cloying, about as mouthwatering as milk.
That’s changing, of course. Wines made with Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, dry Rieslings, Trousseau Gris, Albariño and many others have been horning their way into the marketplace for the better part of a decade. (Even Chardonnay has lost its blunt edge and has become by and large leaner, greener and edgier.)
Then there are the Rhône variety blends, employing the amply endowed varieties Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne. These too have been tarted up, owning mainly to the addition in blends of a fourth variety, Grenache Blanc, a remarkable white Rhône variant that had been all but unheard of in California until the late ’90s.
That’s when the Paso Robles winery Tablas Creek, with its French partners the Perrin family of the Rhône Valley, started importing all the varieties found in their home region, Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Grenache Blanc has proven to be marvelously complementary in white blends, to the great surprise of the Perrins, who imported it, since in France, the variety is often rather generic, filling out blends without lending much character or thrust. In California, however, Grenache Blanc has proved to be resoundingly vibrant, offering a lemony top note to whatever blend it graces.
Tablas Creek makes three white blends, but its entry level, the 2017 Patelin de Tablas, employs the most Grenache Blanc and is worth seeking out, especially if you need to wash down some mussels or baked oysters. In the meantime, here are three weirdly refreshing white blends, two of which employ Grenache Blanc. Each is a lip-smacking white, with a vibrancy that few other California white wines can claim.
Unti 2017 Dry Creek Valley Cuvée Blanc
Mick Unti was an early adopter of Rhône varieties; he has three white varieties planted on his 55-acre vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County. His 2017 Cuvée Blanc is made with Grenache Blanc and Vermentino (another of Tablas’ imports, known in southern France as Rolle). Unti describes this as the highest acid wine he’s ever made. It leads with scents of lemon and sourdough bread crust, with a green apple, salted lemon tang to the flavors and a finish that’s crisp and vibrant. About $30 at the Wine House and at Vicente Foods in Brentwood.
Farmstrong 2015 Suisun Valley White Field Blend
This wine is from three vineyards in the Suisun Valley, a lesser-known appellation east of Napa, set in the eastern hills of the Vaca Mountains. This is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Albarino and Verdelho; it’s a wine that bears a kind of beautiful contradictory purity. The lemon-lime aromas coexist without effort with lovely peach flavors, both framed by a salty mineral underpinning. It’s mouthwatering with lemon sole. About $22 at Flask Fine Wine in Studio City, Stanley’s Wet Goods in Culver City and Farmshop in the Brentwood Market.
Amplify 2017 Santa Barbara County “Duke & Ella”
This wine, made by Santa Barbara County natives Cameron and Marlen Porter, is blended from what they call “very ripe Viognier” and “very unripe Riesling.” The resul is an outlier, to say the least, a peach-scented hothouse flower with a lemon-lime aftertaste, with the nutty flavor of stirred lees bridging the gap between unripe and ripe. Chill ice cold and pour with dry cheeses. It’s about $23 at Domaine L.A. in West Hollywood, the Lou Wine Shop in Los Feliz and Vinovore in Silver Lake.