Roaming around Provence, France, a few years ago, I fell in love with Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines. But, even as much as I liked the reds, I loved Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc even more. They are wonderful, warm-weather wines that are very aromatic and floral -- pretty, elegant wines. A good example is Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc. The problem is, it sells for about $100 a bottle.
Well, for a fraction of that price -- $23.99, to be exact -- you can enjoy a domestic white wine that is very close in flavor and profile to Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc. It's called Tablas Creek Vineyard Cotes Blanc and it's one of my very favorite summer sipping wines.
It's a blend of four estate-grown Rhone varietals: Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Marsanne. As in the great white wines of the Southern Rhone, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne provide fruitiness and a bit of fatness to this wine, while Viognier lends floral aromatics and stone-fruit flavors. Marsanne and Roussanne also impart an undercurrent of minerality and structure.
Recently, my wife and I enjoyed this wine at Jean-Georges Vongerichten's J&G Grill in Deer Valley's St. Regis Hotel, along with a bowl of steamed mussels mariniere, which was a perfect pairing. I'd also drink Tablas Creek Cotes Blanc with seared scallops, ceviche, light fish dishes and summer pastas.
Trust me, you'll enjoy this "poor man's" Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc. It's a perfect picnic wine.