Slowly -- verrrry slowly, alas -- and semi-surely, white-wine weather is arriving. We think. What is certain is that given the current economy, finding bargains never has been more important. Which is why we called some local stores and posed the following query:
"A new customer comes in, says he or she wants a really good white wine for under $15. You're very busy and don't have time to find out the customer's tendencies. But you obviously want this person to come back. What wine do you recommend and why?"
The responses spanned the globe, with many folks wanting to cite two wines:
Darrin Minehan, Sorella Wine & Spirits in Minneapolis: "I would lean toward the Nimbus Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. It's a nice, crisp, fresh, grapefruit-y wine, citrus with nice, clean finish. This is a perfect warm-weather wine, very much like the New Zealand sauvignon blancs but not as spendy. Or actually, maybe I'd go with the Montinore Pinot Gris from Oregon. It has a freshness of fruit with some crispness but overall is a little softer. It's a really versatile white."
Mike Thomas, Thomas Liquors in St. Paul: "I like the Enotria Cortese, which is the same grape they make gavi out of. It's medium-bodied, real crisp and citrus-y, has a nice mouth feel and great acidity. It's a thirst-quenching wine, great with food. It's made by this quirky guy in Mendocino County named Greg Graziano, who has three different labels. He's a nut, but he makes great wines."
Bill Fillmore, Richfield Liquors: "I have found out that gewürztraminer will suffice for most people; it won't offend the dry-wine drinkers. The Washington Hills, at about $9, is a nice, clean summer wine. The fruit's up front, and the finish doesn't come off sweet. I also recommend the Sella & Mosca La Cala vermentino from Sardinia, especially if you're going to have any kind of fish, especially scallops. It's a no-nonsense wine, really tasty, with a lot of apple and pear."
Kristen Kowalski, the Wine Market in Mendota Heights and Woodbury: "I've got two. I really like the Maculan Pino & Toi. It's 60 percent tocai, 20 pinot bianco and 20 pinot grigio, lighter than a chardonnay and fun to recommend as an alternative to pinot grigio. With the tocai's almond-y quality, it goes great with cheeses. And the 2007 Alamos Torrontes is so aromatic, people think it's going to be sweet, and then they get this surprising, unique wine. It goes with anything or nothing."
Jason Swanson, the Cellars in Plymouth: I usually try to go for Chateau Ste. Michelle's Indian Wells chardonnay (often higher-priced but on sale now at Cellars for $14.99). I think it's the best, cleanest flavor from California or Washingon. It's not so big and tropical-fruit-driven as the California chardonnays, not an oak bomb or a butter-sicle. The flavors are cleaner, more refined. And it plays well with others, food-wise."
Rodney Brown, the Wine Shop in Minnetonka: For value, I would always send people to the Bordeaux blancs, which are completely overlooked. The Chateau Claron Marcus 2005 out of the Graves region is clean, crisp, a perfect sauvignon blanc. I would put this up against a lot more expensive wines."