EARLY IN this century H. Warner Allen described the uses of white wine as follows: "There are times and moods which only white wines will suit. When a man is gay and lighthearted, when he is tired and wants to rest his brain, when his all for keeping on the surface of things, white wines are best. Their appreciation demands less intellectual effort than red wines; their charms are openly displayed and easy to grasp."
Your brain may or may not need resting, but the white wine season is upon us, and with it there is good news. You will be able to stock your picnic basket with an assortment of whites of above average interest and have enough cash left to splurge on the pate and cheese.
I began quizzing the reliable sources of the Washington wine grapevine about their favorites and gathered a number of local oenophiles to taste 15 of these recommendations. We thought five were of particular interest, considering their prices, and commend them to you.
Meredyth Vineyards Villard Blanc 1979, $4 to $4.50, widely available.
This wine, grown and produced near Middleburg, Va. is medium-bodied, well-balanced and dry. Its stalky, grassy flavor reminds one of a French white bordeaux or sancerre. The wine has good structure and carries its fruit well.
Bianco di Pitigliano 1979, $2.99, available at Mayflower. Many Italian white wines I have tasted suffer from lack of fruit and acid. Not his one. The initial fruit in the mouth gave an impression of sweetness; however, it has sufficient acidity to finish clean. Here is a crisp wine with good fruit. It should be a crowd pleaser -- enough fruit for those who do not care for an austere wine, but sufficient acidity and freshness to avoid offending those who prefer their wines drier.
Cedar Ridge Chardonnay 1979, Limited Release, "Sonoma County," $4.99. Usually available at MacArthur, A & A, Chevy Chase, Morris Miller and Harry's. This is a classic, big California chardonnay with flavors of vanilla and pears. It has complexity in the nose -- with wood, fruit and lots of body in the mouth. This wine has more richness and complexity than most California chardonnays I have tasted selling at twice the price.
Cedar Ridge Chardonnay 1979, Limited Release, "Northern California," $4.99, same availability as the "Sonoma County." Another huge California chardonnay, that tastes like biting into a cloud of vanilla. It is rich, mouth-filling and softer but less complex than the "Sonoma Country." Both would be reasonable values at twice the price.
Toyon Chardonnay 1979, "San Luis Obispo," $5.99, widely available. Although I enjoyed this wine, I recommend it with some apprehension. It is most unusual -- a veritable Disneyland for the plate, tasting of prunes and apricots mixed with cedar. I suggest you try one bottle and, if you are offended, view it as an educational experience. This is a chardonnay for people who like brussels sprouts.