Thomas J. Story
Look no further than the “Domestic Whites” section in your local wine shop for a small silver lining to the money mess we’re in. Oodles of labels listed in the high teens on winery websites are tagged below $15 on shop shelves now.
These are the bottles that fulfill a wine’s only duty on a warm afternoon: to be crisp and white. Bonus points
for being herbal and minerally or, on the other end of the flavor spectrum, fruity and floral.
The first bottle I reach for is almost always Sauvignon Blanc, because it goes well with more fresh spring foods than any other variety. Dry and citrusy, with great acidity, a good Sauv Blanc is a refreshing sip of a wine. But so are more aromatic white grapes ― assuming a healthy dose of acidity ― like Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay, and crazy blends of all of the above.
On a recent sweep through my favorite nearby wine shops, I snagged a dozen lively West Coast whites, all for under $15. Then I set about pairing them with fun dips that are a breeze to make (each takes only about 10 minutes to whip up). Easy on your wallet. Easy on your time.
Our favorite crisp Western whites under $15:
$8 Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling 2007 (Columbia Valley). Barely off- dry but still bright, with spiced peaches and minerally
apricots spritzed with lime juice and finished with orange blossoms.
$9 Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (California). A steal―fresh and lemony, with a hint of peach and lime zest―from Mason Cellars, whose signature Sauv Blanc is itself a real deal at $13.
$10 House White from the Magnificent Wine Company 2007 (Columbia Valley). A break-out blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, and Muscat. Tangy apple, minerals, and sweet stone fruit spiked with grapefruit.
$10 Dry Creek Vineyard Fumé Blanc 2007 (Sonoma County). Sets the bar for value Sauvignon Blanc, with a noseful of lemongrass, kiwi, and honeysuckle and herby lemon-lime and orange-zest flavors.
$11 Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (California). One of the West’s most consistent values, this Sauvignon Blanc mimics the grape’s Bordeaux tradition, with a tart lemon-lime and mineral character.
$12 C.M.S. White from Hedges 2007 (Columbia Valley). Another unorthodox blend that starts with delicate stone fruit, crisp apple, and pear followed by a rush of juicy peach, melon, and tangerine zest plus a little gardenia.
$14 St. Supéry Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (Napa Valley). Normally priced much higher, this is one of Napa Valley’s go-to Sauv Blancs, delivering everything from kumquat and stone fruit to gardenias and limestone
$14 Ponzi Pinot Gris 2007 (Willamette Valley). Beautiful layers of citrus, pear, stone fruit, and minerals, with a hint of sweet flowers plus bitter orange zest to keep them from seeming too sweet.
$14 L’Ecole No. 41 “Walla Voila” Chenin Blanc 2007 (Columbia Valley). There’s a hint of sweetness in this one, plus honeyed apricots balanced with crisp melon and mineral flavors.
$14 Hanna Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Russian River Valley). Grassy, with a mouthwatering edge of wet stones and complex layers of crisp apples, pears, stone fruit, and pleasantly bitter lemon zest.
$14 Clif Family “The Climber White” 2007 (California). Sauvignon Blanc leads in this blend, with refreshing grapefruit, a little stone fruit, even passionfruit and a hint of honeysuckle.
$12 Honig Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (Napa Valley). One of my own house whites, with fresh lemongrass and bracing acidity but enough roundness in the middle for balance.
Next: Pair these whites with three easy dips