Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Battle the "Poor Man's Conundrum"

Most fans of domestic white blends are familiar with Caymus' second label Conundrum, a unique propietary blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, muscat, semillon and viognier. Wildly complex and vibrant with honeysuckle, peach/apricot nectar and floral-citrus notes, the precise blend changes with each vintage. Lovers of the wine hold "Conundrum Parties", with each guest attempting to guess the exact varietal composition. A lesser known, and lower-priced option is the Chenin Blanc-Viognier from Pine Ridge. Somewhat more restrained, unlike it's crazy cousin Conundrum, featuring pear,lychee, melon and grapefruit notes. While both wines do have a citrus component, the muscat in the Conundrum can really make the train fly uncontrollably off of the tracks. It's just too much. Surprisingly, both wines come from producers of high-dollar, powerhouse Rutherford/Napa reds (Conundrum did just open it's own facility in Monterey County in 2007 to be closer to its Central Coast-sourced fruit). These whites sell for nearly a quarter of their big red brothers. My understanding is that they are something of a "loss leader" for both wineries, in order to introduce the brands to customers. Hence their prevalence on restaurant menus. Another crazy cousin white not to be missed, if you like this sort of thing, is the Evolution (formerly Evolution#9) from Sokol-Blosser in Dundee Hills/Willamette Valley. I'll spare you the gory 9(!!!)-varietal details, but this wine takes the cake for crazy complexity & "Where'd I leave my hat?"-taste-profile insanity. Look for intensely perfumed honeyed-floral aromas, a delicately spiced herbaceous character with melon, peach, green apple and grapefruit on the palate.Oh, and nutmeg (gewurtraminer, you so crazy). Honestly, though I've joyously quaffed Evolution numerous times (once while strolling the very vines from which the wine springs), I culled the preceding description from the website's flavor descriptors for the nine varietals that compose the wine. Did that just to show you how loopy these folks are. I DARE you to pair these wacky whites with your wildest culinary creations. Great "ice-breaker"/hostess gift wines. All three, real head-turners. - Buckley Wineholt

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