Though temperatures aren’t necessarily freezing on the Big Island this time of year, they are cooler than average, making this the perfect time to sip an unctuous white wine with luscious texture and beautiful character.
Chardonnay is a go-to white wine to warm you from inside, as the malleable variety easily absorbs vineyard characteristics while delivering a medium to full-bodied wine. When grown in warmer climates, like various parts of California, the wines offer tropical fruit flavors, mimicking some of our island favorites, like pineapple, mango, and guava, ideal for this time of year. Utilizing 100% new and used French oak barrel fermentation, En Route “Brumaire” Russian River Chardonnay ($40,) has distinct character with sublime style with creamy lemon custard, white peach, and honey. With an Old-World style, blending with New-World California character, Alpha Omega Napa Valley Chardonnay ($82) layers candied citrus and ginger, with apricot and baked peaches.
The majestic Carneros vineyards of Donum Estate, dotted with pristine works of art among the rolling hills of vines, reveals the dedication the winery has to an ever-evolving living system, expressing beauty through a singular sense of place. This vision shines through their wines, with the Carneros Estate Chardonnay ($65) melds spicy ginger, pineapple, and toasted spice. With a focus on sustainability and eco-conscious winemaking, ZD Chardonnay ($45) opens with orange blossom and lime leaf aromas, followed by lemon peel, juicy mango, and golden apple.
Sunshine-filled days marry cold nights in FEL’s Anderson County Chardonnay ($32) from rugged, rustic Northern California, producing an earthy, slightly flinty wine with lemon balm, orange and lime blossom, and melon. From high atop Napa’s Spring Mountain, using old vines of Chardonnay, averaging 25-35 years, Stony Hill brings a similar mineral-intense earthiness to their luscious Chardonnay, with structure, texture, and body in crushed stone, tart apple, and pear filled selection.
From a somewhat unexpected area for Chardonnay, Spain’s Hacienda de Arinzano ($20) showcases a rustic earthiness to the orchard fruit-filled wine, with ripe Asian pear and kumquat. Likewise, from France’s Languedoc, a region better known for Rhone and Bordeaux varieties, Paul Mas excels with the La Forge Estate Chardonnay ($20) layering custard, honeysuckle, hazelnut, and kiwi. Sonoma’s Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay ($42) is complex and creamy, with baking spice, lemon oil, and toasted marshmallow, melding with crushed stone and soft herbs for a complete warming white wine.
With over 170 years of winemaking in California, Buena Vista Winery “Chateau Buena Vista” Carneros Chardonnay ($35) has a sunshine-filled, ripe fruit style, with tropical mango, caramelized pineapple, and banana. Napa’s Cakebread Cellars ($40) highlights lemon blossom, lemon icebox pie, and creamy vanilla in their opulent Chardonnay, ideal for Valentine’s Day lobster or seared scallop pairings. Concentrated, textured, and round, Frank Family Chardonnay ($36) shines with blanched almond, sweet cream, golden peach, and apple.
Consistently a delicious, affordable California option, Decoy Chardonnay ($20) melds ripe apple, nectarine, and white flowers. Similarly, from the salad bowl of California, Hahn SLH Chardonnay ($25) reveals a well-rounded wine, melding orchard and stone fruit, with an inviting palate that lingers on and on. Aged 14 months in predominantly new French oak, Monterey’s Metz Road Riverview Vineyard Chardonnay ($30) reveals creamy macadamia nut, buttery brioche, and golden apple.
The Bordeaux variety, Semillon has been a staple white grape for decades in Argentina. Mendel crafts a luscious expression with wildflowers, soft herbs, and lanolin. Highly aromatic, with jasmine, lemon blossom, and mint, Skouras Zoe ($15) blends two Greek varieties, Roditis and Moscofilero, for an appealing wine with freshness, body, and a food-friendly style.
The white varieties of France’s Rhone Valley, including Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, and Rolle, blend to create a medium-bodied, well-rounded, velvety, viscous palate with loads of white peach, apricot, and white flowers, creating the perfect winter white wine.
Adding aromatic Roussanne with Chardonnay, The Snitch ($35) reveals a mixture of green apple, ripe mango, and nutmeg. Slightly richer, with creamy vanilla and butterscotch, Blindfold ($32) blends half a dozen varieties together, including Chardonnay and Viognier, for a succulent, aromatic wine perfect for creamy pasta dishes and soft cheeses. Showcasing ripe apricot, orange blossom, and spice, Stags’ Leap Winery Viognier ($32) is a nicely structured wine with a mouthwatering, appetizing taste.
With 1/3 Roussanne, 1/3 Grenache Blanc, and 1/3 Clairette, Southern Rhone’s De Vaucluse “Le Pigeoulet” Blanc ($22) forms a well-rounded palate, without being too weighty, balancing ripe nectarine and apricot with bright acidity, perfect for pairing with Mediterranean inspired dishes like grilled fish with fresh herbs.
Blending aging techniques, including the use of oak, concrete, and stainless steel, Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc ($30) reveals a textured wine with ripe Meyer lemon, creamy lemon meringue, soft herbs, and marzipan. Sumptuous Cuvaison Methode Beton Sauvignon Blanc ($40) utilizes 11 months of aging in concrete eggs to add complexity and concentration, delivering a wine with suppleness and vitality. Sonoma’s Hamel Family Wines Sauvignon Blanc ($48) uses both stainless steel and neutral French oak barrels for fermentation and aging, revealing tropical pineapple, freshly cut grass, and honeysuckle.
Plush FEL Pinot Gris ($20) shines with abundant layers of topical fruit like green mango and banana, with just enough acidity to keep the wine fresh, crisp, and inviting. Quality with character and affordability, Portlandia Pinot Gris ($17) is smooth, fresh, and clean, with lemon custard, tropical pineapple, and white flowers. Slightly rounder, Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris ($20) reveals lychee, apple, ripe pear, and citrus zest for an inviting, approachable wine. Easy and uncomplicated, Hess Pinot Gris ($12) melds tropical pineapple and lilikoi with ripe apricot, ripe lemon, and sunshine. Though made from the Pinot Noir red variety, but made into white wine, Left Coast White Pinot Noir ($25) from Willamette Valley reveals fresh white fruits like white peach, ripe pear, nectarine, and honeydew, with a wet stone mineral note on the finish, creating a complete, delicious wine.