Northwest Wine

Northwest Wine: Bargain whites offer refreshment on warmer days

Bob Bertheau, a Seattle native and graduate of Boise State University, is the director of winemaking for Chateau Ste. Michelle.
Bob Bertheau, a Seattle native and graduate of Boise State University, is the director of winemaking for Chateau Ste. Michelle. Chateau Ste. Michelle

With the arrival of sunny skies across the Pacific Northwest, it’s that time of year when we want to always have a couple of white wines in the fridge, ready to open to enjoy at the end of a warm day with a plate of fresh seafood, pasta or grilled vegetables.

Typically, white wines cost less than reds, primarily because the cost less to make. They spend less time in expensive oak barrels and more time in stainless steel and are released sooner after harvest. This means they tend to have fresh, delicious flavors that pair so well with indigenous ingredients.

Here is a selection of Northwest whites, many of them produced on a scale that earns them regular shelf space at some of our region’s largest grocers. And each are priced at $15 or less. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2015 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $15: One of the Pacific Northwest’s leading bottlings of any white wine touches on a number of the reasons why Chardonnay is No. 1 among many Americans. Buttery and toasty aromas include lemon curd, pear, pineapple and almond. There’s more butterscotch that begins the stream across the palate, followed by a creaminess and pineapple that’s capped by lime and almond paste. Complementary entrees include crab, salmon, scallops and poultry influenced by herbs such as tarragon or thyme as well as ginger or lemon zest. (14 percent alc.)

Fujishin Family Cellars 2014 Chardonnay, Snake River Valley, $13: Idaho native Martin Fujishin works with Chardonnay from nearby vineyards Polo Cove and Bitner, and he presents this in what he refers to as a “Central Coast” style inspired by trips to California. As a result, this bargain-priced Chardonnay offers aromas and flavors of toasty oak, starfruit and dried apricot, backed by butter and lemon pepper. (13.2 percent alc.)

L’Ecole No. 41 2015 Sèmillon, Columbia Valley, $14: A case can be made that Mike Sharon’s work with Sèmillon is without peer in the Pacific Northwest. He and managing winemaker Marty Clubb pull from many of the same vineyards they’ve sourced for a decade — Klipsun, Stillwater Creek, Rosebud, Desert Wind and Seven Hills — and the blend with Sauvignon Blanc (16 percent) is virtually identical to their 2009 vintage. Barrel aging in neutral French oak accounts for marvelous aromatics of starfruit and lemon with lavender, honeysuckle and dusty rose. Layers of lemon oil, melon and white peach create complexity and build a beautiful body, and the lingering pulse of citrus makes it ideal with white fish, feta cheese or Cornish game hen. (14.5 percent alc.)

Milbrandt Vineyards 2015 Traditions Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $13: The Milbrandt team sticks with its traditional slightly oaked program for this value-priced Chardonnay that began with a mid-September harvest. Aromas of Honeycrisp apple, oak and vanilla are met with a pleasing balance of fruit and wood on the palate as pear and tropical flavors are joined by almond and nougat notes, backed by ample acidity. Suggested pairings include Creamy Gruyere & Shrimp Pasta. (13 percent alc.)

Ryan Patrick Wines 2015 Olsen Brothers Vineyard Riesling, Yakima Valley, $12: Acclaimed growers Dick and Larry Olsen produced suave wines as vintners in Prosser, Wash., before closing their Olsen Estates operation. A growing number of winemakers are spotlighting their fruit with Olsen Brothers Vineyard-designated wines, but rarely at bargain prices. Columbia Basin winemaker Jeremy Santo, who grew up in Prosser, had the grapes picked for this deliciously off-dry Riesling on Oct. 7. Its floral nose of jasmine and rosewater includes lychee and gooseberry. Those rosewater and lychee notes make their way to the palate that’s tropical and bright as zingy acidity easily balances the listed residual sugar of 1.8 percent. (12 percent alc.)

Wine By Joe 2015 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $14: One of Oregon’s most acclaimed winemakers, Joe Dobbes, pulls largely from his 30-year-old Seabreeze Vineyard northwest of Salem for this well-balanced, bright and flavorful Pinot Gris that opens with aromas of lemon meringue pie and melon that lead to sparkly citrus notes of lemon and lime. With a light to medium body, the juice lingers across the palate to deliver a creamy texture of rich pear and another dose of lemon that begs for garlic hummus and pita chips or bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese. This earned a gold medal at the 2017 Cascadia International Wine Competition. (13.5 percent alc.)

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company;