One afternoon my daughter created a series of girl characters with super powers, like “Dog Girl” or “Fairy Girl”. In my honor,she drew “Wine Girl”.When she finished drawing, she wanted to staple the pages into a book to bring to school and show her teacher. I begged her not to include “Wine Girl”, thinking that her teacher might not get the right impression seeing a likeness of her mother with a wine bottle sticking out of her head.Once again, I’ve been called out by my daughter. Without further ado, this here “Wine Girl” would like to highlight a few wines that get relegated to our California Weird White section (all this really means is that they aren’t Chardonnay): 2009 Arbe Garbe, Matthiasson’s 2010 Napa White, 2010 Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc and Sean Thackrey’s 2010 “Lyra” Viognier. These four wines exemplify the exciting trend towards blending high intensity flavor balanced out with texture and bright finishes. My inspiration for these four picks was an article written by SF Chronicle wine writer Jon Bonné titled “A New Age for California White Wines”. It’s a great read for sure with 3 of my 4 picks reviewed in depth. Here’s my spin on them:


2009 Arbe Garbe Bianco Russian River Valley

White Wine; other white varietal; Sonoma;
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Arbe Garbe’s inaugral release was selected for TWH’s Top Ten Picks of 2009. I’ve been a fan from the start and with each vintage you see the evolution of a confident winemaker who knows they are on to something. The ’09 is primarily Pinot Grigio with a small smattering of two lesser-known varietals, Ribolla Giallo and Tocai Friulano. I just love the engaging floral aromas, broad mid-palate and creamy texture.Though the composition for this wine has changed vintage to vintage, what hasn’t changed is the perfect interplay of vivid aromatics that carry over on to the palate without feeling heavy or overdone.


2010 Matthiasson Napa Valley White

White Wine; White Blend; Napa;
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Matthiasson’s 2009 Napa White was chosen for TWH’s Top Ten Pick of 2010…do you see a pattern here? The blend for the 2010 is identical to 2009, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Tocai Friulano and Ribolla Giallo, but it’s a whole other animal. I think the difference really comes down to vintage with 2010 being a cool weather vintage. The 2010 has crackly minerality and bracing acidity. At this stage, a hint of oak hovers in the background, giving of a more Bordelais feel to the flavor profile.Don’t expect this wine to taste like last year’s. This winery is not a brand; a brand is something that is manufactured and consistent. Steve Matthiasson is a winemaker who works directly with the fruit and makes wines that are representative of what Nature bestows. No hocus-pocus here. Oh yeah, and for those folks who follow such matters, the 2010 Napa White comes in with an alcohol content of 12.5%.


2010 Spottswoode Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Napa County/Sonoma County

White Wine; Sauvignon Blanc; Other California;
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I think TWH has been buying Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignons since their first release in the early 80’s, yet this is the first time we’ve been offered their Sauvignon Blanc! Oh joy! I’ve always loved their Sauvignon Blanc and have been only able to enjoy it off of restaurant wine lists (I fondly recall sharing a bottle with my husband during our honeymoon at a fish house on Maui). A blend of Napa and Sonoma County fruit, I love the citrus notes, the faint spice flavors of the integrated oak, and the weighty mouthfeel. So perfectly elegant and refined, much like their heralded Cabernets.


2010 Sean Thackrey Viognier Lyra Noble Vineyard Knights Valley

White Wine; Viognier; Sonoma;
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If my facts are correct, this is Sean Thackrey’s first commercial release of a white wine. I know he has made whites over the years, Viognier is often a component of his Pleiades blend, but he has never been satisfied enough to release one until now. Once again, Sean Thackrey proves to be unconventional and single-minded in his drive to make wines that are alive and real. The 2010 Lyra is 100% Viognier from Noble Vineyard in Knights Valley. The Knights Valley AVA essentially separates Sonoma County from Napa County and is the warmest of Sonoma’s Viticultural Areas. The soil is mostly volcanic and there are some gravel deposits from ancient rivers that once meandered through this area. I have read that my beloved Russian River once flowed this direction but was diverted westward after a St. Helena eruption. Thackrey’s 2010 Viognier blew me away; while it contains exotic flavors and an oily texturetypical of Viognier, it has none of that hideous canned peach flavor so common to California Viogniers. It is expansive and rich, and goes long on the finish. A true showstopper.