There’s the slice of the wine world that considers white wine a “palate cleanser” for the more challenging and impactful reds. The equivalent of mouthwash? Really? Or is this just another slight pointed at these vintner blondes?
To answer these charges, we asked a cross-section of worldly whites to sit down for an interview and answer for the state of their ilk in this modern war of hue and esteem. This group interview was conducted on a foggy late morning at the confluence of the Yamhill-Carlton and Ribbon Ridge AVAs, the valley running away from us as we sat high atop the vineyards below. These “ladies” all brought their own bottle to share and taste, but mostly to help get them through this interruption in their daily routine.
The interview format was an ensemble version of the Proust Questionnaire, but those results are annotated here for economy and somnambulistic avoidance.
MUGROSO: Good morning, ladies. Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedules to meet and discuss the state of white wine in modern society, and perhaps to dispel some myths around modern whites. I know you are each very busy, so let’s get right to it. You’ve all seen the questionnaire. Please be frank and honest. It would be awesome if you could manage to be quite clever as well, but–
KANDY KRANKL: I have a hard stop at 1 PM, darling. Do try to keep these gals in line, won’t you?
[Kandy is a white blend from the maniacal laboratory of Elaine and Manfred Krankl in Ventura Cali, whose wines sell for hundreds of dollars a bottle, even the whites! (Bias for emphasis) She carries herself as though she is well aware of her status among the other women.]
KANDY KRANKL: This is a nice place. I didn’t realize they even had wineries in Oregon. (She emphasizes the third syllable to sound like gone.) It reminds me a bit of the Santa Rita Hills. Quite quaint.
MUGROSO: I will do my best. Thanks, Kandy. We like it here in Oregon. (I emphasize the third syllable to sound like gun.) Paulina, welcome to America. I hope your flight from France was OK.
PAULINA MONTRACHET: It was lovely, merci. You know I always fly premier class, but PDX Magazine’s G4 was very comfortable. It was a nice touch that you served me on the flight. Do you know, I just read, some idiot in Angleterre believes that drinking oneself can cause Mad Wine Disease. Ridiculous! I have been drinking from my own bottle for decades. I am as healthy as a cheval.
[Paulina is a white wine from the Cote-d’Or in Beaune, the Burgundy region of France. Some call her the “Princess Grace” of wine. She carries herself with a sense of regalness whether she is an expensive iteration or one of her more accessibly priced versions.]
MUGROSO: I had not heard of Mad Wine Disease, but thank you for sharing. We’re glad you’re here. I will let our Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Blanchard, know you enjoyed the flight. He’s paying for it. Willow, let’s hear what a homegrown white has to add.
[Willow Chard is an Oregon chardonnay. She is hosting our event in hopes of showing off some of Oregon’s best wines from her estate high atop the east end of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. She too has a quiet elegance, is comfortable in her skins, and earnest in her devotion to her wines.]
WILLOW CHARD: I want to welcome the ladies to my home state and our estate winery. You know, when people think of chardonnay, Oregon isn’t the first growing region to come to mind.
PAULINA: C’est vrais. How do you say in America: “What she said.”
KANDY: Oregon chardonnay? Scary. Sorry, sweetie.
MUGROSO: Thank you for hosting us, Willow. Your estate is beautiful. Oregon isn’t really known for chardonnay. More pinot gris are grown here, right?
WILLOW: We grow a lot of chardonnay in Oregon. Many people think our wines are more like the French than California wines. (She looks directly at Kandy.)
PAULINA: I have not heard this.
ROXY RIESLING: Hi. Oregon is growing more and more Riesling, as well. Just like Washington. I hope you don’t mind me saying so.
[Roxy Riesling is a Washington riesling. She is lovely, slightly dry, and suffers from poor self-image and a defeatist attitude after years of American riesling producers making cheap, overly sweet wines. Roxy is a lovely example of an off-dry riesling that stands with any Northwest white; she just doesn’t quite believe it yet herself.]
MUGROSO: Not at all, Roxy. Thanks. Ladies, let’s get to the interview, shall we? The first question: If you were a famous painting, which masterpiece would you be?
KANDY: I flew up here for this? Is this how this interview is going to be? I’m bored. Tartuffe… Do you have any truffles?
MUGROSO: You were provided with the questionnaire in advance of the interview. Did you read it?
KANDY: Of course not. I sell for $200 a bottle. I don’t need to read. Art is stupid. Did you find any truffles? If you insist in this silliness, I will say Salvadore Dali’s My Wife, Nude. Then I will leave.
MUGROSO: Kandy, please, stay. We need you here.
KANDY: Since you put it like that.
PAULINA: Pardon, je suis La Liberté Guidant le Peuple. Delacroix. Naturellement! Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité! Vive la France.
ROXY: Is it OK if I pick Van Gogh, Starry Night? It’s like my multi-tiered layers of flavor swirling in one’s mouth.
WILLOW: I adore that painting, Paulina. My first thought would be a Grant Wood landscape because they remind me of Oregon even though they depict the Midwest. But if we’re describing me, I will say The Birth of Venus by Botticelli. When I stand nude before a mirror, the image is very much that of Venus.
MUGROSO: Ahem. What is your most marked characteristic?
KANDY: My husband does as I ask him.
PAULINA: (Looks at Kandy quizzically) I am the essence of the earth…le terroir.
WILLOW: I am largely consumed by women.
ROXY: I have multiple personalities. Dry to sweet!
MUGROSO: As a white wine, and considering your reputation in the marketplace, are you a palate cleanser, mouthwash, or a delicate example of a fine wine?
PAULINA: Palate cleanser? I am not familiar with this idée. But I am mou dans la bouche, “nice in the mouth.”
WILLOW: I am lean and sexy, good acidity, rich, and sometimes spicy. I don’t know what mouthwash you use, but I haven’t had one like that!
KANDY: I am a red wine drinker’s white wine.
ROXY: I am a fine wine, but some of these gals would say I am weak by comparison. They think I am watered down.
KANDY: Grow some spine, darling.
MUGROSO: What meal would you like to be drunk with?
ROXY: Something spicy, maybe Asian or Mexican? I cut through the Scoville heat and deliver the goods.
KANDY: Much better, my darling.
WILLOW: A saffron risotto with some type of shellfish…mussels, clams, perhaps a white fish.
PAULINA: Foie gras, of course. But I like to think I am the main course.
KANDY: My husband. Black caviar. Sturgeon. Pheasant trapped and tortured under glass. Truffles. Do you have any truffles?
WILLOW: Truffle popcorn!
KANDY: Absurd! A waste of a truffle.
MUGROSO: What song do you hear when people drink you?
PAULINA: “Breathe Me,” Sia. But I am music on the tongue.
WILLOW: Easy one! “Yellow Leadbetter,” Pearl Jam.
ROXY: A polka. Circus music? Well…isn’t that what people think? I prefer to think I am the wine equivalent of jazz. Miles Davis would be divine.
KANDY: Edith Piaf, “La Vie En Rose.”
PAULINA: Que? Ce n’est pas vous!
MUGROSO: What is your present state of mind?
KANDY: Aging gracefully with a treacherous finish.
ROXY: Torn. Multiple personalities beget multiple thoughts. I don’t seem to be able to get a single thing done these days.
PAULINA: Félicité. I have no state of mind because I am the past, the present, and the future.
MUGROSO: Ladies, thank you for your time today. I appreciate your candor. It’s fair to say based on your answers that each of you exhibits a toughness and directness not found among all white wines. You are excellent examples of your race and gender.
Last question. What is your motto, credo, or ethos?
PAULINA: Amour. Slow and steady. That’s how I like it!
WILLOW: Stay sexy. Umm, that doesn’t make me sound cheap does it? I’m not cheap. I’m like, $35-40 a bottle.
KANDY: I gave it my all, but made my husband do it.
PAULINA: Coeur froid, Kandy!
ROXY: Take me seriously or I will hold my breath until I turn purple. You wouldn’t want that, would you, ladies?
Oregonington Selections of the Month:
2010 Deuce Cellars Reserve Syrah $40. Small and handcrafted, but muscular–that is Deuce. Born from river rock in Walla Walla, WA, this small-production syrah is sustainably farmed, organically composted, aged 20 months in new Missouri oak, and is hand bottled unfiltered under the loving care of Leon and Laurie Simms. Having complex coffee bean, cigar box, lavender, and unsweetened chocolate nuances, it finishes with red raspberry and even some green apple fruitfulness. Only 300 cases were made, so find the Deuce before you can’t!
2010 Treos Estate Elegant Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir $48. From another small producer, at just 70 cases, Treos pinots are big, complex, and atypical of Oregon’s best varietal. These pinots are not for the faint of heart, or those looking for delicate rose petal essence. A mosaic nose of red and black cherries and baking spice marries with a flavor profile of red berries, earthy loam, ample but supple tannins, and a long, delectable finish. This wine lingers long after a swallow. Aged 6 months in 3-year-old dry-aged French oak, Treos is bottled in atypical Bordeaux-style bottles, its package suggesting something different is inside.