California style: Generally a bit rounder, more filled with
melon and tropical fruit and the citrus is mostly grapefruit.
A few picks: Honig (Napa), Provenance (Napa), Lava Cap (El
Dorado Cnty), Andis (Amador Cnty), Geyser Peak (Sonoma
New Zealand style: Most of the best are from the Marlborough
region. They're leaner, grassier, a bit greener, more citrusy and
that citrus is more like lime.
A few picks, all from Marlborough: Mahua, Cupcake, Kim
Crawford, Cloudy Bay (which was the biggie that launched the
Sauv Blanc with oak: It's often called Fume Blanc, which is a
made-up term. But not all Sauv Blanc with oak are called Fume
Blanc, and not all Fume Blancs use oak. Sorry. It generally gives
it a richer mouthfeel, but does not come out oaky like some
A few picks: Ferrari Carano (Sonoma), Robert Mondavi (Napa),
Grgich Hills (Napa).
Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris (same grape. Also the
same grape as Auvergne Gris, Baratszinszoeloe, Fromentot, Spinovy
Hrozen and Zelenak, and more than about 100 other names. Never mind
about any of them. Just sayin'): Clean, light, easy-to-drink, light
fruits like pear, apple and sometimes with a slight nutty
undertaste. Gets criticized by wine zealots as innocuous, but
perfect for summer. Sometimes the "Gris" means it's more in the
French style, which is fruitier, but also has brighter acids.
Unless they just use the name. Isn't wine fun?
A few picks: Estancia (California), 3 Blind Moose
(California), Montevina (California), King Estate (Oregon), J
Italian Pinot Grigio: Generally leaner, brighter, bit less
fruit (not always), but more zip.
A few picks: Santa Margherita, Ruffino, Cielo,
Albariño: It's a Spanish grape that grows
well in some California spots, especially Clarksburg. It's bright
and lemony - but not overly lemony -- and you get a hint of the
A few picks: Three Wine Co. (Clarksburg), Mahoney (Carneros)
Dancing Coyote (Clarksburg), Bokisch (Lodi).
Viognier: A star in the foothills. It can
have a rich feel in the mouth and at its best, it smells and tastes
like a summer garden filled with apricots, peaches, nectarines,
honeysuckle, jasmine and orange blossoms.
A few picks: McManus (Lodi), Loredona (Lodi), Lange Twins
(Lodi), Cedarville (El Dorado Cnty), Miraflores (Amador), Sobon
(Amador), Holly's Hill (El Dorado), Terra Rouge (Amador), David
Girard (El Dorado), and many other foothill wineries.
Riesling: Great Rieslings are an explosion of
flowers and fresh fruit, including peaches, apricots, melons and
more. Some can be sweet, some very dry, and all the good ones have
a sense of taughtness, as if the flavors are all strung together
tightly. The good ones also have a enough acid in their backbone to
balance it all and give them a cleansing snap (without being
A few picks: Kung Fu Girl (Columbia Valley),
Chateau Ste. Michelle (Columbia Valley) Trefethen (Napa), Handley
German Rieslings are the gold standard, and can be very lean
and bright, or very rich and sweet. Or rich and bright. They
usually have a light minerality and a whiff of petrol - in a very
good way. Really.
A few middle-of-the-style picks: Dr Loosen, Trimbach, Blu
Chenin Blanc: A classic wine in Europe, and
one of the best regions in America, and on Earth, for it is
Clarksburg. It got its reputation ruined when the name was stuck
onto jug wines decades ago. It can be rich and layered with soft,
round fruits like pears, peaches, melons and more. One style is to
leave it a bit sweet, but still with a snappy, cleansing
A few picks: Blue Plate (Clarksburg), Bogle (Clarksburg),
Dry Creek Vineyards (Sonoma winery, Clarksburg fruit), Pine Ridge
Chenin Blanc-Viognier blend (Napa).
Gewürztraminer: Another foothill star, and
like Viognier and Riesling, it's what summer is supposed to taste
like, with stone fruits and white flowers, plus loads of spices
including ginger (or ginger bread), nutmeg, and vanilla. Don't be
put off by the old, sweet versions from decades past.
A few picks: Fetzer (California), Bargetto (Monterey), Husch
(Mendocino), Navarro (Mendocino), J Lohr (Monterey), Dancing Coyote
(Clarksburg), Trimbach (Germany)
Moscato: Hottest new wine in America,
especially with beginning wine drinkers. Filled with flowers and
honey and spicy orange flavors. The most popular California
versions are made a bit sweet (or way sweet).
A few picks: Trinitas (Napa), Little Black Dress
(California), Menage a Trois (Napa), Fetzer (California), Lange
Twins (Lodi), Terra d'Oro (Amador), Jacob's Creek
Grüner Vetliner: An Austrian
grape that was really hot a couple years ago. It's kind of like
Moscato all grown up. Filled with luscious fruit but also leaner
and brighter and interesting. It's nickname is GruV. How do you not
like a wine called groovy?
A few picks: Dancing Coyote (Clarksburg), Zocker (San Luis
Obispo/Edna Valley). Most others are Austrian, but when you see it
on a wine list, it's usually an underpriced surprise.
Vermentino: It's a fresh, zippy Italian white
that grows very well in Lodi, and it tastes like you're sitting
somewhere looking at the Mediterranean. It's got a light, clean
sensibility (like a lot of Italian whites), but some aromatic
A few picks: Uvaggio (Lodi), Mahoney (Napa), Jacuzzi
Torrontes: An underappreciated white from
Argentina. It's light, easy to drink, and kind of a cross between
Moscato and Gewürztraminer with spices and summer fruits but with
less, or no, sense of sweetness.
A few picks: Alamos (Argentina), Crios (Argentina),
Conundrum: This is the name of one white blend.
It's about $20 in stores, give or take, and is usually made with a
different blend of grapes every year (they try not to say, hence
the name), but it is thoroughly delicious, and in a way, a combo of
all of the above. Great for people unsure about wine, great for
folks who like complex wines. It smells like the tropics and tastes
like a fruit bowl, but has enough of a backbone to make for serious
food and wine pairings, too.