As Northwest wineries begin bottling some of their 2012 whites, there are plenty of 2011s left on shelves at good prices. This week, we take a look at whites priced at $15 or less.
All but one of the six wines reviewed here are made by the Northwest's two largest producers: Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Woodinville, Wash., and Precept Wine in Seattle.
Though some white wines will age, most made these days are meant to be consumed within a few weeks or months after they're bottled. A few varieties, especially Riesling and Semillon, can be stored for years and gain fascinating complexities. However, there is little need to consider that with nearly every white wine produced.
Today, we look at two varieties: Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.
Lone Birch Winery 2011 Pinot Gris, Yakima Valley, $13: Airfield Estates in Prosser, Wash., already makes some of the best value wines in the Northwest. This wine opens with aromas of lemon zest, Asian pear, starfruit, white pepper and river rock. The approach to the palate is dry yet fruitful.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, $13: Its largest-production Sauvignon Blanc is far from shy with its grassy and zesty approach. The nose hints at light oak - a third of the blend spent five months in older French oak - backed by peach, melon, lime and minerality. There's tasty honeydew melon on the bone-dry entry.
Apex Cellars 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, $15: Launched by Washington wine entrepreneur Harry Alhadeff in the 1980s in the Yakima Valley, Apex Cellars is now part of Precept Wine. This Sauvignon Blanc is a frisky wine with aromas of sweet herbs, freshly mown grass and honeycomb.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2011 Horse Heaven Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Horse Heaven Hills, $15: Those who enjoy dry Gewurztraminer should enjoy this wine's grapefruit flavors, backed by peach, slate, lychee and lingering juiciness.
Waterbrook 2011 Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, $12: This brisk and steely Gris carries aromas of lemongrass, Golden Delicious apple, honeysuckle and fresh-cut celery.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information website. Go to GreatNorthwestWine.com.