I'm not sure at what point in time America got hung up on pure grape varietals as their wines of
choice. Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay. Zinfandel. The only Old World wine that comes to
mind that's labeled and sold as the name of the pure grape varietal is Prosecco. All other Old
World wines are mainly labeled as the name of the house or chateau or the wine growing district
- even if it's a singular grape varietal. Does it stem from the American Kennel Club where a
purebred canine is supposedly more valuable than a mutt? I personally would prefer a mutt as
they're not as prone to genetic maladies like hip dysplasia and deafness like their purebred
brethren. And off the subject, if I ever raise canines for show, I WILL name my animal "Fido".
Who ever heard someone calling your dog "Ch. Breeze of wind down the valley for her majesty"?
It's a DOG! Give it a dog's name. Like Fido. You may see "Ch Fido" at the next Eukanuba Cup.
But I digress. So back to wines. Sometimes, "mutt" wines or blends exemplify the "sum is greater
than the parts" rationale. Like Chateau Margaux or Chateau Petrus or Chateau Beaucastel. Blends
of complementary grapes that are so much better than any individual grape varietal.
To be fair, there are vintners Stateside who embrace the Old World tradition of blended grapes
and about 25 years ago, the Meritage Association was formed in Napa Valley to embrace the
blending tradition in Bordeaux where both red and white wines were made with classic grape
blends. The reds had to be made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot,
Malbec or Carmenere while the whites had to contain Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon or Muscadelle
du Bordelais. In Central California, growers tried mimicking the blends found in Southern France,
specifically the Rhone region where Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise, Cinsault and
Carignan reigned supreme in red wines and Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne dominated the
white wines. And while some of these wines are great (Opus One, Tablas Creek, Saxum), trying to
emulate Bordeaux or the Rhone when the climatic conditions and soils aren't the same often
doesn't translate to wines found in the Motherland.
A Step Further
Going a step further, there are some vintners in the Upper 48 and the Old World that are forging
their own path. Never mind classic grape blends found only in the old chateau. We are the NEW
GUARD! Different climatic conditions, different soils, grape clones better suited to these "home"
conditions. Blends not ever imagined in Bordeaux or the Rhone. But as Duke Ellington once
stated, there are only two types of music, "Good music and bad music" and in that same vein,
there are only two types of wines "Good wines and bad wines", never mind heritage or tradition.
Probably the most successful in the white wine world would be the Wagner family's Conundrum
label which contains varying amounts of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscat Canelli
and Viognier. Never the same proportion every year and they don't even admit to other white
grape varietals added to the blend. But floral, fruity and crisp at the same time and friendly to a
variety of foods that made the wine so successful the Wagner family branched it out on its own
Then there's Folie a Deux's Menage a Trois White which is a blend of 44% Chardonnay, 34%
Muscat Alexandria and 22% Chenin Blanc and while you won't find this blend anywhere in France
(you may find menage a trois in France but not these 3 grapes in one bottle), the body, fruit and
acid combine to perfectly pair with hearty Asian cuisine.
For other Maverick Blends, try these white wine blends with your favorite Asian cuisine whether
it be Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese. The fruit pairs with sweeter flavors in sweet
and sour, the slight sweetness tempers any capsaicin chili pepper heat and the acid cleanses the
palate between bites. Prices shown reflect prices at K & L Wines in the Bay Area followed by my
own personal scores.
2011 Mas Grand Plagniol Costieres de Nimes" Côtes du Rhône Blanc $12.99 (4.25/5)
40% Grenache Blanc, 50% Rousanne and 10% Viognier
Peach, melon and citrus blossoms on the nose with a balanced medium mouth feel on the palate
and moderately long finish.
2011 Chemistry by Chehalem "Fig.'11" Willamette Valley White Wine $14.99 (3.5/5)
40% Pinot Blanc, 37% Gewürztraminer, 12% Riesling, 6% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Gris
Melon, peaches and stone fruit on the nose with a hint of lime with a medium mouth feel, good
acid and a touch of bitterness on the finish
Sokol Blosser "Evolution" Oregon White $13.99 (3.75/5)
Pinot Gris, Muller-Thurgau, Semillon and six other white grapes
White flowers, peach and apricot and lime zest on the nose with a medium palate feel, a touch of
sweetness and good acid on the palate with a medium finish
2011 Domaine Mittnacht "Gyotaku" $14.99 (4/5)
40% Pinot Blanc and 20% each Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer
White flowers, apricot, stone fruit and citrus on the nose with a medium mouth feel and very
balanced on the palate with a medium finish. Created in Alsace, France specifically for sushi and
sashimi, it worked with both limu ahi (yellowfin tuna) poke and wasabi infused shoyu au poke
2010 Geoff Tate Insania (Three Rivers Winery) Columbia Valley White Wine $13.99 (3/5)
62% Semillon and 38% Sauvignon Blanc
Candied citrus peel and peach on the nose with a hint of mineral. Initially a lush mouth feel with
ripe white fruit but the acid then hits the palate and ends with a touch of bitterness and a
2011Chateau de Montfaucon Comtesse Madeleine $17.99 (4/5)
45% Marsanne, 35% Viognier, 10% Clairette and 10% Picpoul
Orange blossoms, melon and a hint of gravel on the nose with a full palate of orange marmalade,
sweet citrus and earth and lush, medium long finish.
2010 Urbanite Cellars "Caliberico" Lodi White Blend $14.99 (4.25/5)
47% Verdelho, 35% Albariño and 18% Torrontes
Pineapple and green apple on the nose with a hint of mineral with a very balanced flow over the
palate and a medium long finish. This wine paired nicely with poke (so it should pair nicely with
any raw fish) and didn't class with memmi (flavored shoyu). One of my new favorite white wines
2011 Szöke Irsai Oliver $10.99 (4/5)
Olaszrizling (Italian Riesling), Sylvaner, Hárslevelü (Linden-Leaf), Ottonel Muscatel, Tramini,
Király Leányka, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and the oddly named Irsai Oliver
Very Gewurztraminer like on the nose with apricot, stone fruit and citrus blossoms with loads of
spice and a rich mouth feel and long finish. This should pair with heartier dishes like roasted
poultry or pork and might even stand up to choucroute.
Remember that the list of eight isn't all inclusive so I encourage you to seek out your own
favorite blend of grapes. Also remember that the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts.
Just because a certain blend works in France or Italy or Spain doesn't mean it's the best blend
Stateside and likewise just because it wouldn't work in the Old World doesn't mean it wouldn't
work Stateside. And remember that it's not simply about the wine but does the wine pair with
what you're eating. A little fruit balanced with a little sweetness and a little acid makes for the
perfect partner with most Asian cuisines. And it doesn't hurt that the list of eight are all less
than $20 a pop and at those prices, any wine that scores 3.5/5 is a good bargain. And if you
noticed, I didn't even touch on Maverick Blends of red grapes. But that's another column.