Enjoy these California white wines, properly chilled, of course

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 2, 2013 

Last week I discussed the propensity of some people to overchill white wine in the refrigerator or on ice before serving.

But remember that most medium- to full-bodied white wines, such as chardonnay, viognier, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc, shouldn't be served too cold, or you'll cover up the fruit and floral flavors and aromatics of the wine.

Here's a good rule of thumb that's worth repeating: No more than 45 to 60 minutes in the refrigerator should chill these wines sufficiently to the proper serving temperature of about 45 to 55 degrees. If you've had them in the frig too long, simply leave them out on the counter for the same amount of time to gently warm them to that temperature range.

Today, I'll venture outside of the Northwest for a trio of superb white wines from California that taste best when served lightly chilled.

J Vineyards & Winery 2012 Pinot Gris, California (about $15). I've enjoyed everything that's come out of this winery as of late, and this pinot gris is no exception. It's an excellent starter wine that should also pair beautifully with shellfish or a light seafood entrée.

Sourced from a combination of grapes from several California appellations, it opens with gentle aromas of nectarine, melon and orange blossom. Generous flavors of green pear and kiwi initially hit the palate, with a refreshing smack of Macintosh apple and citrus on the finish.

Robert Mondavi Winery 2010 Fumé Blanc, Napa Valley (about $20). Comprised of 94 percent sauvignon blanc and 6 percent semillon, over two-thirds of the juice for this wine was barrel-fermented. After fermentation, it was combined with the remaining stainless steel-fermented juice and aged for five months in French oak.

The process lends character and creaminess to the finished product, but too much refrigeration will accentuate the oak and conceal the rest of the wine's flavor profile, which includes key lime, lemon chiffon, a hint of fresh herb and just the right amount of bright acidity.

Franciscan Estate 2012 Equilibrium White Blend, Napa Valley (about $23) A base of sauvignon blanc is combined with chardonnay and muscat canelli to create this "wow" wine that is certain to provide you with sensory overload.

The honeysuckle and floral aromas of the muscat lead off, with a mouthful of fruit-forward peach, pear and ripe cantaloupe flavors to follow. The finish is big and round, yet strikes the perfect balance - or should I say, equilibrium - between slightly sweet and slightly citrusy.

Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.

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