Northwest Wine

Bargain whites will make your holidays taste better

By Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue, Great Northwest Wine

Bill Murray, a refugee of California’s Napa Valley, has found a home in Walla Walla for Canoe Ridge Vineyard.
Bill Murray, a refugee of California’s Napa Valley, has found a home in Walla Walla for Canoe Ridge Vineyard. Courtesy Precept Wine

The holidays bring family, friends and good cheer together at the dining table, and the value and versatility of white wines often hits the spot at this time of year.

And if that credit card is a little warm from all the spending, here is a selection white wines from producers large and small in the appreciated $15-and-under category.

While larger producers typically rule the “best buy” red wine category, crisp and aromatic white wines can come from smaller wineries. A primary reason is there’s often less oak used. A new oak barrel from France runs $1,000 and up. However, it is rare to see new wood barrels used in the production of white grape varieties such as Gewürztraminer and Muscat because much of the charm with these wines are the amazing florals.

Chardonnay remains the favorite white wine in the United States, and winemakers are listening to consumers who don’t want as much butter and toast in their Chardonnay, a reserve style California made famous. As a result, these more fruit-forward and bright expressions of this grape from Burgundy make food pairings much easier.

And consumers now are more adventuresome too. That allows winemakers to tap into their artistic side and create fun and crisp blends, many times using grapes such as Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Gris. These wines also spend most, if not all, of their fermentation lives in stainless steel tanks. That preserves more of their natural aromatics.

Here are several affordable white wines we’ve tasted recently. They will work deliciously with that holiday bird, seafood, side salads, appetizers and cheese plates. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or grocery or call the wineries directly.

Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2014 The Expedition Pinot Gris, Horse Heaven Hills, $15: Walla Walla winemaker Bill Murray captures aromas of dusty white peach, apricot and tangerine followed by voluptuous flavors of honeydew melon, tangelo and Honeycrisp apple. (13.5 percent alcohol)

Latah Creek Wine Cellars 2015 Hyatt Vineyards Muscat Canelli, Rattlesnake Hills, $11: In 1982, Spokane winemaker Mike Conway used Muscat Canelli to help launch Latah Creek. Now, it’s his daughter, Natalie Barnes, heading up the program. Her work showcases beautiful aromas and flavors of lychee nut, Bartlett pear, rosewater, cinnamon and clove. Enjoy it with clam fettuccine or her mother’s recipe for Mussels with Sweet Chili Twist. (10.5 percent alcohol)

Colter’s Creek Winery 2015 Chardonnay, Snake River Valley, $15: Melissa Sanborn and Mike Pearson continue to develop their estate wine program in the historic Lewis-Clark Valley, but they pull from Sawtooth Vineyard — Idaho’s most important site — for this delicious, food-friend Chardonnay. Lemon, orange zest and white peach aromas are backed by a drink of Asian pear, jasmine and lemon oil. A brief time in oak adds roundness, making for a delicious pairing with butternut squash soup at their wine bar/restaurant in downtown Juliaetta, Idaho. (13.9 percent alcohol)

Columbia Winery 2013 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $14: Canadian-born Sean Hails uses just a bit of oak to create this fruity, butterscotchy and refreshing Chardonnay for this historic winery in Woodinville. Its theme of white orchard fruit such as Bosc pear and Jonagold apple includes hints of sweetened lemon, hazelnut and pineapple. Enjoy with Dungeness crab or Penn Cove mussels. (13.8 percent alcohol)

Coyote Canyon Winery 2015 LOL White Wine Fun, Horse Heaven Hills, $13: Rancher/grower Mike Andrews sells most of his fruit to Ste. Michelle, but he keeps a tiny percentage for his own label in Prosser. This fun blend features Chardonnay and the Spanish grape Albariño, which combine for tropical yet dry flavors of lychee, pear and apple. Its creamy midpalate, touch of sweetness and balanced acidity will be well served with shrimp or scallops. (14.5 percent alcohol)

Indian Creek Winery 2015 Viognier, Snake River Valley, $12: Mike McClure and his wife, Tammy Stowe-McClure, work with two of Idaho’s top vineyards in Sawtooth and Williamson to make this remarkably inexpensive Viognier a reality. Hints of orange cream, vanilla, almond and tropical fruit are joined by ample acidity and a pleasing finish to pair with grilled chicken, Seaside cheddar cheese and salads. (12.8 percent alcohol)

Valley View Winery NV Rogue White, Oregon, $12: The Wisnovsky family established their winery and vineyards in Southern Oregon in 1972, and their Rogue White is an easy-drinking blend of seven grapes featuring Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer. Apple and pear aromas and flavors are joined by melon on the midpalate and orangy acidity in the back. (12 percent alcohol)

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at