Pinot Blanc could be called the Rodney Dangerfield of white wines, i.e., “It don’t get no respect.” By implication, of course, the iconoclastic comedian could have added, “Even though it deserves some.”
In Oregon, only about 200 acres, or 1 percent, of total vineyard acreage is devoted to Pinot Blanc, a grape with ancient Burgundian origins considered a little sister to Chardonnay.
The Germans call it Weissburgunder, the Austrians, Klevner, and the Italians, Pinot Bianco. Its clean crispness and softness on the palate are emphasized.
In the Alsace, Pinot Blanc has reached its most exalted position with wines of distinction that see some oak treatment and exhibit hints of spice as well as a creamy, textured mid-palate.
Sauvignon Blanc is a grape that makes world class wine in the eastern Loire Valley and in the Graves district of Bordeaux. It can present overly aggressive, pungently unpleasant odors at its worst and pleasingly fresh hints of mowed grass, sweet hay and tangy herbal, vegetal expressions at its best.
Its appealing aroma is further augmented when lively, full-bodied flavors follow. In the Loire, mineral-laden accents add another layer to such AOCs as Pouilly, Sancerre, Quincy and Manetou Salon.
The wines selected as Value Picks this month have captured the varietal essence whose standard has been set by their European counterparts.
Elk Cove 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc • $19 (1,363 cases)
A committed Pinot Blanc player, Elk Cove has hit the bullseye in this exceptional vintage. Floral and stone fruit roll out of the glass tantalizing the taster to take in the crisp palate experience that accents stone fruit and baked apple.
Foris 2012 Rogue Valley Pinot Blanc • $14 (941 cases)
An immediately appealing aroma of fresh peaches and plums leads into a clean tangerine mid mouth. A lingering hint of orange zest topped by tangy acidity completes this beautifully balanced wine.
WillaKenzie Estate 2012 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Blanc • $21 (800 cases)
This citrus-laden, floral overlaid example wraps the palate in ripe apple and grapefruit, then flows on to a long, lingering finish.
Chateau Figareaux Seven of Hearts 2012 Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc • $21 (112 cases)
The fruit for this very varietal Sauvignon comes from Stonehenge Vineyard, in the Columbia Gorge, even though the wine is labeled Columbia Valley. Regardless, wet grass and hayfield delight the nose while a silky mouthfeel carries hints of Italian plum and thyme throughout.
Garnier NV Columbia Gorge Sauvignon Blanc • $16 (220 cases)
Non-vintage premium table wines are seldom seen these days, but this exception delivers the varietal goods with lively, grassy freshness on the nose and bright, tasty, lime-accented flavors on the palate.
J. Scott Cellars 2012 Washington-Oregon Sauvignon Blanc • $17 (200 cases)
Grapes from two states contribute to this fresh, fruity wine — Washington 56 % and Oregon 44%. The marriage has worked out splendidly, producing a soft, appley wine whose grassy character is subdued but helps create a lengthy finish.
The Oregon Wine Press tasting panel has selected the following wines based on overall quality and value within their respective categories. To the best of our knowledge, they are currently available in the marketplace. Wine must be: 1) produced by an Oregon winery; 2) priced (retail) $30 or less for reds, $30 or less for Chardonnay, $30 or less for dessert and sparkling wines, and $25 or less for remaining varietals; and 3) currently available to consumers. Recommended wines were selected using a double-blind method and a 20-point ranking system for appearance, aroma, taste, balance and finish.