By W. Peter Hoyne
We are often perplexed and challenged when it comes to finding the perfect wine for a dinner party, or perhaps understanding the ideal wine that will pair well with a grilled fish or seasoned poultry dish. Instinctively we resort to choosing a Chardonnay as the remedy. Although Chardonnay still dominates sales with a 22 percent market share, there remains a vast array of alternatives, many of which will peak your curiosity, stimulate your palate and perhaps make you more adventurous during your next quest. California Sauvignon Blanc has been the customary summer patio wine while Pinot Grigio has become oversimplified. Exploring enticing Albarino and Verdejo from Spain, exotic Marsanne, Roussanne and Sauvignon Blanc from France, freshly scented Oregon Pinot Gris or the viscous character of Viognier from California can be a rewarding experience. The options can be endless while your personal fulfillment is dependent on your willingness to venture beyond traditional boundaries.
1. 2007 Darioush Signature Viognier | Napa Valley, California
Darioush Winery, located in the Stags Leap District, is the culmination of the passion of proprietor Darioush Khaledi. His focus has always been directed toward red Bordeaux blends and perfecting the expression of the Shiraz grape, which dates back to his Iranian heritage. The wine produced from this new facility, is dramatic, ripe and has a take-no-prisoners approach. The 2007 Darioush Signature Viognier is a piece of artistic expression in a bottle. The generous aromas of honeysuckle and orange blossom pull you into the glass while a thick coat of ripe mango fruit stretches across your palate and lingers for a few minutes. Although the components seem to push beyond our expectations, there is enough balance in this wine to make it a welcoming conversation piece for any gathering. | About $39
2. 2006 Le Blanc Prieuré-Lichine | Bordeaux, France
Residing in the Bordeaux appellation of Margaux, Chateau Prieure-Lichine's history dates back to the Middle Ages. But it wasn't until the estate was acquired and revitalized by Alexis Lichine in 1951 that this property established its esteemed reputation. Today, under the guidance of the Ballande Group and consulting oenologist Stephane Derenoncourt, the chateau continues to elevate its long-standing reputation. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion, the Bordeaux "Blanc" was introduced in 1990 and is a wine that speaks of elegance and balance. Well refined floral aromas open to finely tuned flavors of honeyed lemons, white peach and pink grapefruit extract. A precise wine that ends with a lot of finesse. | About $30
3. 2005 Naiades Verdejo | Rueda, Spain
This wine is a jewel from the portfolio of Spanish importer Jorge Ordones, who single-handedly changed the direction and the history of Spanish wines. The expression of each of the wines under his guidance is a clear definition of what Spanish wines should be and what the consumer wants. The Naides is 100 percent barrel fermented Verdejo from the northern mountainous region of Castile-Leon in Spain. This unique white wine varietal is gracious, yet still generous in what it offers in the bottle. There is a fragrance of fresh pineapple and lime citrus that develop into a savory, creamy mid-palate of nuts, spices and minerals. | About $30
4. 2007 Domaine de l'Oratoire St. Martin
Blanc Reserve | Cairanne, France
The Alary brothers are the 10th generation of winemakers behind this initiative. An intriguing blend of Roussanne, Clariette and Viognier grown on the eastern facing slopes in the Cotes-du-Rhone, this medium bodied white is a mouthful of refined fruit with overtones of poached pears and spiced apples. A hint of buttery marmalade in the background adds to the interest of this wine. | About $20
W. Peter Hoyne has been a wine journalist for over 20 years, covering stories of national and international significance. While his professional relationships in the wine industry have allowed him to share a unique perspective of wine, he is also intrigued by the culinary aspect and harmony that exist between wine and food. As a wine advocate, he is committed to consumer education and is focused on upcoming trends and American wine-buying habits.