Last night seven members of our sysnagogue plus our new assistant rabbi (gotta break him in right) tasted eight kosher white wines, each from a different grape. This is in our annual wine tasting series to benefit our synagogue. I set up the tasting to introduce people to the range of kosher whites available. I was pretty sure that none of them had ever tried the full range, and tried to pick wines that exemplified the flavors and aromas of the grape, as well as being of very good quality. Some of the wines I was familiar with; others I chose on the basis of comments in this forum. As always, they found the tasting interesting, and in some cases, eye-opening. In the words of our most recent past president, Mission Accomplished.
Here are my brief notes, in alphabetical order of the grape:
Chardonnay: 2008 Rene de Lacray Chablis Premier Cru Montmains; The nose was rather earthy (not so much menerally or flinty in my opinion) and rather closed in and did not open much over the next hour. In the mouth the wine exhibited the typical lemony taste of a young Chablis but again, not the minerality I was expecting. I think the wine is still young and needs a few years to develop.
Chenin blanc: 2012 Domaine Netofa; Lots of fruit in both the nose and taste; some bitterness at the end, as has been noted in this forum, but that should be offset by most any food. This is a fairly serious and complex wine, not one to be sipped poolside or at a party. For that I recommend the Baron Herzog chenin blanc.
Gewurtztraminer: 2012 Lueria; one oif the best wines in the tasting and exemplary of gewurtz. There was a small (friendly) fight to determine who got to take home the unfinished bottle. A very flowery nose; lots of gewurtz fruit in both the nose and taste; not much of the typical bitterness found in the finish of many gewurtzes. In short, an excellent effort by Lueria.
Pinot Grigio: 2012 Borgo Reale; Can't say that much about most pinot grigios; this one is a good example. A light-bodied wine with good fruit and acid and a citrusy taste. Should be good with light fish or chicken dishes; not one for poolside sipping (unless you like to sip a light very dry wine).
Riesling: 2012 Hagafen Decoto Vineyards (Lake County); a typycally oily/flowery nose with good fruit and flowery flavors. About 2% residual sugar; tastes just fine. Some felt it would be too sweet to have with food; I disagree - the acid is in balance and it's not any sweeter than most German kabinetts. And you certainly could drink it poolside, if you happen to have a pool (living where we do, we naturally don't).
Roussanne: 2012 Har Tavor roussanne; I love the big-bodied northern Rhone whites. This was not of the same nature but it's a fine wine nonetheless. A medium-bodied wine with (to my surprise) a touch of lychee or the like buried in the nose. In the mouth the flavors were rich and probably still developing, with a reasonably long finish. This wine might develop with a couple of years in the bottle but is just fine right now. A favorite of the group, along with the gewurtz.
Sauvignon blanc: 2012 Covenant "Red C; a stinky earthy nose at first that dissipated with time to a more herbal tone, good fruit and acid in the mouth. My experience with sauvignon blancs is that they taste better after about a year in the bottle; this one is pretty good and ought to be better next year.
Viognier: 2009 Yatir; I chose this viognier because I have had it before and found it more complex than the Yarden (and am not familiar with the current Dalton versions). owever, the wine was disappointing. The nose smelled a bit like rubber cement (never a good sign in my opinion). Surprisingly the wine tasted better than the nose (which also isn't a good sign unless one prefers to hold one's nose while drinking the wine) more fruity like a good viognier should (with a bit of spritziness). Maybe the nose would blow off eventually, but it didn't improve after about an hour. No-one liked it much.
My recommendation: stock up on the Lueria gewirtz and the Har Tavor roussanne and/or Domain Netofa for near-term drinking, get some Red C sauvignon blanc (or more of the foregoiing) for next year, and lay down some Chablis just in case.