Too many people get in a wine rut, drinking their favorite chardonnay or sauvignon blanc to the exclusion of most everything else. That's a shame, because there is a world of deliciously different wines out there made from grapes you may not be that familiar with. France's Rhone Valley is home to a number of exceptional varieties like roussanne, marsanne, picpoul and grenache blanc. Blended, they make perfect transition wines as we segue into fall.
2011 Flux Blanc, $24
California winemaker Mark Herold, who began his career at Joseph Phelps, crafted this blend of grenache blanc and roussanne. It opens with aromas of honeysuckle, rose bud, casaba melon and stone fruit with hints of wet stone and mineral. Ripe peach and citrus play against crisp and refreshing acidity in this beautifully balanced wine that's built to be paired with food--think shellfish or pasta.
2011 Kermit Lynch Cotes du Rhone Sunflower Cuvee, $24
Made for importer Kermit Lynch by Louis Barruol, the 14th generation of his family to make wine in France, the Sunflower is a blend of marsanne, roussanne, viognier and picpoul harvested from old vines. The aromas are light but lovely, with soft lime, orange and touches of citrus peel and quinine. The quinine is light on the palate, backing citrus and stone fruit flavors.
2012 Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussillon, $13.99
Seeing incredible potential in the Cotes du Roussillon, famed Rhone winemaker Michel Chapoutier started his Bila-Haut project. This blend of grenache blanc, grenache gris and macabeu offers floral lime and grapefruit aromas, mingling with subtle lavender and mint. Crisp and refreshing with zesty pineapple and citrus flavors, the finish adds complex notes of mineral and a hint of sea salt.