Sonoma County is rapidly becoming our go-to bin for high-quality white wines in California. Not that the reds are bad — the area grows both excellent cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir — but many of our best whites made from sauvignon blanc, pinot blanc and gris, chardonnay, and other varieties are grown in one of the sub-regions of Sonoma.
These four just released whites are good examples:
The 2010 Quivera "Refuge" Dry Creek sauvignon blanc ($28) has lovely fruit flavors of green, juicy gooseberries, and apples with just a touch of butter at the finish. It has an excellent balance between fruit and acid — perfect to go with the spicy tartness of choucroute (sauerkraut) garni.
Another sauvignon blanc, this one, the 2011 Sbragia Dry Creek ($19) is slightly different, with a lovely spiciness and a fuller body, yet the wine isn’t "fat" on the palate. It is a touch sweet, but it has intense flavors that finish long with many notes of citrus. It would go well with a baked fish with a cream or butter sauce.
The 2011 J California Pinot Gris ($16) has a little oiliness that we normally get from riesling, some white pepper, and a little gewürztraminer-style spritz. It has a moderate body with a nice, crisp finish. Quite good — perfect to sip with a shrimp salad.
Finally, a wine from a grape that is lesser known and lesser grown in Sonoma — viognier. The 2011 Hawley Sonoma County viognier ($25) is on the sweet and full side of the variety, but it is still quite interesting and very Rhone-like in its approach. It has a characteristic, lovely orange and tropical fruit base that goes with a floral, white-flowers finish. It would be lovely with a juicy, young chicken that has been baked or broiled.
The fact that Sonoma can make great white wines isn’t new. But the fact that it is becoming very diverse in its offerings makes us want to keep our eyes — and lips — on it.