Winter Whites

Now that we are officially into the winter chills (happy belated solstice), I still want white wine. It is a matter of extremes. I either desire the rich, the nutty, the honey-layered and lees-y—the wine that fills me with almost too much muchness, like a Christmas cookie gone rogue… OR! I desire: Something so frosty that my snow-hued skin goes a shade of white unbeknownst to vampire-kind. A drink/wine with the pallor yet weight of a vodka martini with ample vermouth, lemon twist and dry ice finish. I’m goth, so I don’t dream of a white Christmas, so much as an ivory solstice. Go fig. For this column we are looking mostly to the first category I named—the full and fuller and fullest of white wines. All with good acid though. Gotta get that cut. I am limiting my recommendations to dry wines. Sweet winter whites may be a topic for another month. I had to narrow the playing field somehow. Once I conceived this piece, potential winter whites turned up so much it was worse than wack –a-winterwhite-mole in my thirsty mind. So, what is responsible for full-bodied winter white delight? What makes a wine rich, full, spiced, and robust? There are a variety of factors, and sometimes more than one is at play. Let us examine building blocks: *Lees contact, aka when the wine is allowed extra time to sit on the dead yeast cells (like our love Champagne), adds body and a sometimes lactic, bread-y or even nutty nature. *Grape variety plays a part in adding spice and body *Malolactic conversion pumps up the volume with buttery notes. *Oak can add spice and vanilla. *Skin contact yields slight tannic truth and again, weight. *Some sediment (aka is your wine unfined and unfiltered?) can add compelling body and texture like when a peanut brittle gets it jusssst right. Brittle almost never does but when it does, it does. And now for your winter white shower sip! Granted, I‘ve become somewhat a devotee of the freezing shower. After taking one in winter my body makes heat the rest of the day. In hot weather it cools me adequately—and as a girl who is constantly overheating, that comes in handy in winter too. But when wine showering, I want the water hot and the wine cold. SO! What white accompanies me to clean-town when it is chilly out? I’m gong with the Ventisquero ‘Tara’ Atacama Chardonnay . The silk upon my tongue countered with backdraft of acid is exciting as a shower hot or cold. Before the specific recommendations please know that for winter I ALWAYS advocate Riesling and Chenin Blanc . For any season, really. Maybe that’s why I am leaving them out in this article. There is a Chenin and Riesling for every season. I wanted to point you in new directions. Case in point: TIMORASSO You didn’t see this first one coming, did you? Neither did I, then I consulted at my most favorite-est wine shop (Eve) with owner Nathaniel Muñoz, who recommended this. I don’t know if this is a typical Timorasso from the Piemonte, but if you can get this bottle, you should. 2016 Ezio Poggio ‘Caespes Colli Tortonesi Terre di Libarna DOC TiMorasso Tis heavy yet spritely--thank you to the variety and a smidge bit of batonnage. The lees-y-ness is evident mostly in texture. It smells like shells and…golden syrup? Not quite honey. Then flowers! Delightful orange blossom buds and sweet grapefruit Hit with a zing then get full and rich then kicks ya again in a good way. On the palate it tickles! Yet coats. As Nathaniel said, it is “broad shouldered” but also light on its toes. What a zing hits you at the end of a parade of almonds, honeycomb, and citrus joy! SOME CHARDONNAY I think you think I am going to suggest the heavily oaked buttery Chards here, but to me those seem more like autumn wines. What we want here are the Chardonnays somewhere between the heavy hitters and my aforementioned vodka martinis. Goldilocks Chardonnay. During winter, sometimes it is too cold out and too warm inside. We want the Chardonnay that splits the difference. With texture. 2017 Ventisquero ‘Tara’ Atacama Chardonnay Maybe it is the sediment, maybe it is that this is made where when its winter here, tis warm in Chile? Maybe it is the incredible vibrancy and a hint of sass that somehow cuts through all richness? Or maybe it is the fine sediment of this unfiltered native yeast beauty? Maybe maybe maybe, all I have to say is I have tasted quite a few of Ventiquero’s offerings and they all have been stellar—but this may be my favorite yet. What fabulous range this shows, slightly milky (or is it the appearance making me think that?), a little freesia, a hint of overripe honeydew melon, lemon and tangerine, but most of all it is the LUXURY of the texture—it feels like light cream in the mouth—that makes this a warming winter wine. But motivating too. Anything but basic. 2018 Frédéric Sornin Beaujolais Lantignié Nature Chardonnay Les Monthieux My my my, it has the crispness of the unoaked Chablis, mixed with the silky ripeness of a quality Macon all tied up with a slightly saline bow. A Delight, in short. It dances on the tongue but it is wearing a long tutu, not a saucer one, grounding it and making it seem just slightly fuller and heavier but with the elegance of tulle. Kissed with honeysuckle and seashells. ALBARIÑO For the lees and salt! Lurve the riño. Also look to Vinho Verde these days for some stunners 2019 Paco & Lola Rias Baixas Albariño Absolutely what I want out of Albariño that tilts at being a chill Chard. Less floral and more citrus than some iterations but with that trademark acidity and lees-y nature. SO zippy it feels like someone was zesting a lime on my tongue. Ohhh I wanna dance with this wine I wanna feel the heat with this wine. Actually, no I don’t, this is not a shower wine. Although I have yet to try it PINOT GRIS This tends to be a winter white for the spice and sometimes lees stirring and richness. Can you believe it is the same grape as Pinot Grigio? I scarcely can. From Alsace and Oregon in particular, these are winter whites of note. 2017 Hubert Meyer Pinot Gris Grand Cru Winzenberg Alsace SUPER STAR Exquisite! I want to cuddle this wine by the fire all night long. Okay so there is a hint of residual sugar but the acid cancels it out. What a gorgeous wine. It smells of honeysuckle, elderflower, pollen and lemon curd. It tastes like all of those plus some super ripe peach nectar. And then there is a bitter bite, like greens that seem sweet then gently kick you in your mid upper palate on the way down. 2019 Portlandia Vintners Oregon Pinot Gris Honeyfresh pseudo (not) sweet and savory, my goodness this overdelivers. I get a bit more of the lactic vibe on this but only after quite-ripe apples, pears, tangerines and underripe honeysuckle all have their way with me, dashed with Himalayan sea salt because this is Portland bitches. And that bitter kick at the end. Contrast this with the Alsatian specimen—if you are feeling brave pop a Pinot Grigio and taste all side by side. I would like to. This wine is cool but like crocheted beanie cool, like homemade cool except leveled up. So totally Portland. GRENACHE BLANC BLENDS Sure, on it’s own Grenache B is no season’s baby. High abv, low acid—but enchanting flavors and if tempered by some other varieties’ acid and light and maybe yet more fun spice it becomes an hiver stunner, if blended. 2019 VIña Sol Original Parellada and white Garnacha make up the blend, usually a 40/60 breakdown but in hotter years more Parellada for acidity. It is the salinity and prickle that makes it winter but the underlying richness goes far. Is it the vodka and (lots of) vermouth of wine? Maybe. 2019 Domaine Vieux Telegraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc La Crau 40% Clairette, 30% Grenache Blanc, 15 % Bourboulenc, 15% Roussanne Omigoodness omigoodness let not robot brain analyze this not even computer brain analyze, but make the call: this is so damn good. Yellow plums, tart yellow skittles (maybe? I dunno I haven’t had a skittle in ages but for some reason that is what I pictured drinking this) and honey call to mind brocade or maybe it is an overstuffed velvet tuffed armchair with golden scrolls and swirls and such for arms and legs—some sort of renaissance chair, can you imagine that? Because you can lounge into this wine (the tufted velvet cushion part) but there is some elaborate structure (the architectural arms and legs) and it was all yellow. Unctuous in the mouth but slips away so easily like a good body lotion, absorbing and nourishing, but its your tongue not your skin. 2018 TOP ‘Axis’ Paso Robles Grenache Blanc 80% Grenache Blanc 20% Roussanne. Decant this is if you have the patience! Even when only briefly acquainted with oxygen, Axis gives you frankincense and pears, plus salinity on the nose. Then beeswax, wet rocks orange blossoms on mouth. All decorated with cured lemon rind and acidity. Zaftig and ethereal. Beautiful. ROUSSANNE: THE ULTIMATE WINTER GRAPE? For the spice and weight and holy heck Roussanne may be my ultimate winter wine grape but…I can’t really pick favorites. 2018 Warr-King Columbia Valley Gamache Vineyard Roussanne Another woman winemaker to KNOW! Her Washington Rhone varietal wines are my absolute faves from the state. This wine feels like a vintage pumpkin orange velvet frock with cap sleeves and a flares trimmed skirt cinched at the waist with a honey-colored straw…cincher? And I’m in gogo boots. And there are all the autumn pumpkin spice spices but in an apricot cider garnished with salted honey if such a thing is a thing. This wine is a thing. A very good thing. Sosie Vivio Vineyard Roussanne I may have recommended this before…I am always a fan of Sosie; all their wines have made me a very happy girl. It balances ripeness with acid and…just happiness in a bottle trust moi. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Wine For Kamala Women in Castles Down by the Loire River Whole Wine - Pairing Optional Goth Wines for the Perennially October Soul Back to School More Than Port It’s a Can-demic Ellen in Lalaland Pandemic-Style You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Katherine Jarvis Wine Situation Final Five! With Cha McCoy