A Blanc Canvas

The art of Pinot Blanc and unusual whites

Pinot Blanc, an Alsatian varietal that finds a perfect home in Oregon’s cool climate, reveals three faces this month. Helioterra brings a fruit-forward version easy to enjoy on its own. Wine by Joe presents Pinot Blanc’s leaner side in its food-friendly version. And Brooks offers a crowd-pleaser great for any occasion. As for the following “unusual” whites, they made for a lively and educational tasting. Cheers to the adventuresome growers and winemakers who break tradition to explore less common varietals such as Sémillon, as well as the more peculiar, like Auxerrois (aus-ser-whah) and Huxelrebe (hook-sill-ray-beh).

Brooks 2014 Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc

The novice wine lover won’t find this wine overly challenging; while the more experienced sipper can appreciate its quality quaffability. Hints of minerality, tangerine zest and fresh baked brioche fill the nose while flavors of tangerine and green apple develop in the mouth. Its smooth, long finish offers hints of citrus pith and mildly sweet Casaba melon. Brooks suggests pairing with grilled whitefish or pork tenderloin crusted with honey mustard sauce. $18; 700 cases

Helioterra 2014 Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc

It begins with green grass, floral notes and lemon on the nose followed by a myriad of fruit on the palate: green apple, lime and pineapple. A lush, full mouthfeel balances with bright acidity and extends through the finish with hints of sweet fruit and mint leaves. $17.99; 278 cases

Wine by Joe 2014 Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc

Aromas of lime, pear, floral, grass and tarragon tempt the taster. A tart palate reveals traces of kiwi, juicy lemon and a touch of minerality, delivering a pleasantly dry, clean and lingering finish. Enjoy this wine with seafood, especially shellfish. $14; 414 cases

Carlton Cellars 2014 Yamhill-Carlton Auxerrois

Auxerrois, more typical to Alsace — as well as Germany and Luxembourg — is rare in the U.S. and known to grow in only five vineyards in Oregon. An Internet search revealed few specifics related to expected tastes, but some sources claim it’s similar to Pinot Blanc. This example presents an unusual combination of earthy, forest floor aromas contrasted with caramel, orange and crème brulée flavors. A refreshing lime zing mid-palate lifts the otherwise soft flavors. Interesting citrus suggestions make a lasting impression on the finish. $18; 180 cases

Arcane 2013 Wheatland Vineyard Willamette Valley Sémillon 

Behaving like a busy toddler, this wine had an endearing quality yet was difficult to grasp. Descriptors ranged from jalapeño pepper, pimento and grapefruit, to chicory, blonde roast coffee and oolong tea. Try it for yourself and expect a clean, bright palate plus a few surprises. Arcane suggests pairing with seafood and salads dressed with light vinaigrette. $24; 62 cases

Helioterra 2014 Starthistle Cuvée White Wine

Riesling (47 percent) combined with Huxelrebe (53 percent), a German hybrid cross of Chasselas and a variety of Muscat, is a rare treat in Oregon. Its aroma of cherry blossoms continues on the palate along with anise, creamy caramel and yellow plum. A perfect amount of sugary sweetness balances with impressive acid, while the sweet mid-palate and tart finish give the impression of a lemon sorbet, which is fitting considering the winery recommends this wine as an aperitif. $17.99; 196 cases

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.


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