90 Murphy-Goode 2002 Chardonnay (Sonoma County); $15. Murphy-Goode is known to insiders for its quality and value. Most of the grapes for this Chard came from Alexander Valley, while the balance are from Russian River Valley. The wine is dry and acidic-tart, with great structure and depth. The flavors veer toward lime custard, mangoes, apricots, vanilla and slate, with a gentle overlay of toasty oak. Should be easy to find, with 25,000 cases produced. —S.H.
88 Chateau Ste. Michelle 2003 Chardonnay (Columbia Valley); $12. Pleasing pear and light vanilla aromas lead into a nicely textured, lively and distinctly unflabby Chardonnay. This is the least expensive of five Chardonnays from Ste. Michelle that all showcase winemaker Bob Bertheau’s elegant, light touch. Happily, there is no reliance on buttered-popcorn flavors or excessive new, toasty oak to make the flavors pop; this is a great food wine, way ahead of most budget bottles from California. —P.G.
87 Bocage 2004 Unoaked Chardonnay (Monterey); $11. Bocage is a value brand from San Saba Vineyards, which is located in the Santa Lucia Highlands. San Saba’s regular Chard has oak; this one was entirely stainless-steel fermented and unoaked. You can taste that beautifully ripe, fresh Monterey terroir in the crisp acids and juicy flavors of guava, pineapple, mango and peach.
87 Canyon Road 2004 Chardonnay (California); $8. Don’t be misled by the price in thinking this is some simple little Chard, because you’d miss a great deal. It’s packed with peach, apple, mango and spice flavors, with the rich creaminess you want in a good Chardonnay. Canyon Road, owned by Peak Wines, has long been known for value. This wine is partially barrel fermented and aged on the lees. Perfect with salmon or roast chicken. —S.H.
87 House of Nobilo 2004 Regional Collection Chardonnay (East Coast); $12. Well crafted and well priced, with gentle scents of toasted nuts and grilled peaches picking up additional notes of pear and melon. Medium-weight, with a soft, easy finish. —J.C.
86 Los Cardos 2004 Chardonnay (Mendoza); $9. From the yellow tint through the ripe tropical fruit, this is Argentinean Chardonnay in its truest form. Los Cardos is the second label from Doña Paula, itself a spinoff of Chile’s Santa Rita. The nose offers popcorn along with pear and licorice, and the texture and flavors are solid as a statue. "Cardos," in Spanish, are thistles, but there’s nothing prickly about this well-priced Chard. —M.S.
86 Meridian 2003 Chardonnay (Santa Barbara County); $10. Started in the early 1980s by veteran winemaker Chuck Ortman, Meridian hit the big time after it was bought by Beringer, when it became a value-oriented winery. This Chard benefits from Beringer’s extensive vineyard acreage in the county. Winemaker Signe Zoller chose lots that combine balance and complexity with lush pineapple, peach, tangerine and honeysuckle flavors, set in a creamy texture. —S.H.
86 The Wishing Tree 2004 Unoaked Chardonnay (Western Australia); $11. "Unoaked" oftentimes means "light-bodied," but this Chard’s no lightweight. It’s actually pretty sizeable, all things considered, with red apple and white stone fruit flavors, and a dry mouthfeel. Its tangy, zippy finish makes the wine. —D.T.
85 Concannon 2003 Selected Vineyards Chardonnay (Central Coast); $10. It’s nice to see Concannon back in form. For over a century, the winery specialized in Livermore grapes, but was an early pioneer in planting Monterey vineyards. This dry white wine is marked by green apple and pineapple flavors, emboldened with a zesty, acidic tartness. This is a good price for a classic Central Coast Chard. —S.H.
85 Kumala 2004 Chardonnay (Western Cape); $9. South Africa has emerged as a top source for bargain-priced wines, but remains a bit of a minefield, as many of the less expensive wines continue to exhibit various winemaking faults. Not so this wine, part of the Vincor portfolio. This plump, easy-to-drink Chardonnay boasts oodles of tropical and citrus fruit flavors that finish clean and fresh. It’s in the uncomplicated fruit-cocktail style popularized by mass-market Australian brands, but remarkably well done. —J.C.
84 Kelly’s Revenge 2004 Chardonnay (South Eastern Australia); $6. Actually has decent structure, which you can say of very few wines at this price. Sunny, peach and mineral aromas are reprised on the palate, where the feel is just a little viscous. Has high enough acidity to pair well with food—chicken curry, maybe, or grilled shrimp? —D.T.
90 Kenwood 2004 Sauvignon Blanc (Sonoma County); $13. Run, don’t walk, to buy this by the case. It’s California Sauvignon Blanc at its best, long and deep in gooseberry and alfalfa flavors, but complexed with richer notes of lime, peach custard and vanilla pudding. But it’s not a sweetie. It’s dry and crisp in acids, with an irresistibly yummy finish. Try with shrimp or scallops and pasta in a creamy beurre blanc sauce. —S.H.
88 Barnard Griffin 2004 Fumé Blanc (Columbia Valley); $9. This dry Sauvignon Blanc, all stainless fermented, represents a change in style for B-G that puts it more in line with the lime/citrus flavors of New Zealand. Gone are the herbaceous notes; here the flavor is all about citrus zest, providing sharp relief around the good, juicy fruit. Barnard Griffin is one of the largest family-owned wineries in Washington, and winemaker Rob Griffin has been making wine in the state since 1976. "We’re too available to be cultish," he modestly explains. But if there were $9 cult wines, this would qualify. —P.G.
88 Villa Maria 2005 Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough); $13. After a big crop in the 2004 vintage, Marlborough suffered from poor weather during flowering, leading to lower-than-normal yields and more concentrated wines in 2005. In a recent tasting of 20-odd new releases, this offering proved to be the best value. It shows less pungency and more ripeness than most years, starting with grapefruit and adding layers of stone fruits and ripe, tropical flavors. —J.C.
87 Smoking Loon 2004 Sauvignon Blanc (California); $9. Clean, savory and utterly refreshing, this wonderful white wine is a steal. It’s jam-packed with juicy wintergreen, pineapple and pine cone flavors, with a spicy, white-pepper edge that wakes those tastebuds up and makes them sing. Great acidity leads to a lingering vanilla-citrus finish. The brand is part of the Don Sebastiani & Sons stable, which has become one of America’s leading sources of quality-oriented value wines. —S.H.
86 Château Tour de Mirambeau 2004 Bordeaux; $11. While all the focus in Bordeaux is on the reds, white Bordeaux is an unjustly neglected category. It can be made from a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, but in 2004, the crispness of 100% Sauvignon Blanc, as in this wine, gives a wine that is light, fresh and immediately fruity. Made by top white wine producer Vignobles Despagne, the wine has flavors of grapefruit that are crisp and are balanced with just a touch of tropical fruit. Bring on the seafood. —R.V.
86 Evans & Tate 2005 Underground Series Sauvignon Blanc (Western Australia); $11. This is a pretty interesting Sauvignon Blanc, with white stone fruit aromas that lead into a brisk, lemon-and-hay-flavored palate. Shows some anise and wax on the finish. —D.T.
85 Winzerhöf Schindler Mörbisch 2004 Sauvignon Blanc (Neusiedlersee); $7. Unmistakably Sauvignon Blanc, with fresh, green, herbal aromas backed by hints of pineapple, grapefruit and melon. Light in body and alcohol and crisply refreshing, this is the perfect antidote to oppressive heat and humidity. —J.C.
84 Undurraga 2005 Sauvignon Blanc (Central Valley); $7. About as new as you can get, here’s a fresh, simple ’05 Sauvignon that may not rock your world but it won’t rock your wallet, either. Melon and apple aromas get it started, followed by kiwi, honeydew and pineapple flavors. There’s medium zest from moderate acidity, and some citrus rind on the finish. To call it innocuous would be unfair, but harmless, even friendly, is appropriate. —M.S.
OTHER WHITE WINES
91 Quinta do Casal Branco 2003 Branco (Ribatejena); $6. This is a serious, complex wine, a blend of Encruzado, Sercial and Assario from the Casal Branco estate in central Portugal. Owned by the Lobo de Vasconcellos family, this estate used to supply wine to their cousins, the Guedeses of Mateus Rosé fame, but now they make and bottle their own wines. This terrific value of a white has aromas of wood, spice, toast and white fruits. The palate is packed with intense, dense fruit, shot through with fresh acidity and wood. —R.V.
89 Covey Run 2004 Riesling (Columbia Valley); $7. There is an embarrassment of riches in Oregon and Washington when it comes to crisp, seductive Rieslings, but most of the good ones cost double this amount. Wonderfully fresh, lively and fruity, it delivers surprising complexity, with some sweetness (2.7% residual sugar) but nothing sugary or cloying. The winery also markets (regionally) a limited-edition "Dry Riesling" which still clocks in at an off-dry-ish 1.5% residual. The regular version is the better of the two. —P.G.
89 Graff 2004 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer); $12. Star winemaker Ernie Loosen is now consulting for Graff, and the wines have taken a step up in quality. Leesy and a bit sulfury on the nose, but underneath are some pure flavors of melon and mineral, finishing with a dusting of dried spices and powdered mineral over poached apple. Could be racier, but the broad, mouthfilling flavors are satisfying. —J.C.
89 Heartland 2004 Viognier-Pinot Gris (Langhorne Creek); $12. Sounds like an odd blend—I was just as dubious as you probably are—but you know what? This Ben Glaetzer wine works. It’s a 75-25 blend, Viognier dominant, with a fragrant bouquet of honeydew, flowers and fresh cream. Its flavor profile (peach, some coconut, maybe some banana) may sound as convincingly upscale as an all-inclusive piña colada on a Cancún beach, but a wiry, dry citrus spine reins in the wine’s more rambunctious notes. Boisterous and zesty it may be, simple it is not. —D.T.
89 Markowitsch 2004 Schanzacker Grüner Veltliner (Carnuntum); $13. Rated as one of the top Austrian red wine producers (look for his highly regarded Pinot Noir), Gerhard Markowitsch also seems to be at home with Austria’s national grape. In the naturally warm climate of Carnuntum in the Danube valley east of Vienna, the Grüner can flourish into a ripe, full-bodied style while still keeping fresh acidity. This is a delicious wine, packed with citrus, pear and quince flavors. Drink as an apéritif or with salads or cold appetizers. Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. —R.V.
89 Weininger 2003 Leicht & Trocken Grüner Veltliner (Vienna); $12. A great buy in GV, this offering shows more minerality than most GVs at any price, delivering scents of powdered stone and apple and citrus flavors. As the name suggests, it’s light and dry, with a long, smoky, mouthwatering finish. If you like Grüner but think you can’t afford to drink it every day, buy this one by the case. —J.C.
88 Hedges 2004 CMS White (Columbia Valley); $11. You may recognize the CMS label from the Cabernet/Merlot/Syrah-blended red. Now this Red Mountain winery has added a CMS white, replacing their Fumé-Chardonnay with a Chardonnay/Marsanne/Sauvignon Blanc (get it? another CMS!) blend that has plump fruit and just a bare hint of sweetness. Clever and flavorful. —P.G.
88 Madrona 2003 Dry Riesling (El Dorado); $12. Madrona is a mountain winery. Its vineyards, up to 3,000 feet, are the highest in the county, and produce grapes of exceptional intensity. This Alsatian-style Riesling is fully dry, containing a mere 0.05% residual sugar. The flavors are rich and complex, suggesting ripe tropical fruits, green apples, pepper and spice, and although acidity is not particularly high, the pH is low, giving the wine a fresh, appley tartness.—S.H.
88 Snoqualmie 2004 Winemaker’s Select Riesling (Columbia Valley); $7. Here’s another delicious Riesling, this one sweet and penetrating, with surprisingly deep and protracted flavors of candied orange peel, lemon peel and grapefruit. Drink this lovely wine with fruit desserts, or chill it and sip it all by itself. —P.G.
87 Fazi Battaglia 2004 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico; $10. Those nostalgic for Italy’s most famous amphora-shaped bottle that was ubiquitous during the roaring Dolce Vita will be happy to know that Marche producer Fazi Battaglia continues to supply great value for your dollar. The 2004 vintage is especially delicious, with crisp green apple and pear, sharp and delineated minerality. The slight sourness in the mouth is countered by generous exotic fruit and roundness, making it perfect for most fish dishes. —M.L.
87 Forest Glen 2004 Pinot Grigio (California); $10. Everyone will like this wine, even the fussiest of wine lovers. It’s bone dry and wonderfully tart, with a clean, vibrant mouthfeel and a cool, lingering finish. The flavors are of lemons and limes, pineapples, honeysuckle and white pepper. Winemaker Ed Moody avoided malolactic fermentation, resulting in a refreshing crispness that makes this a natural pairing with shellfish. —S.H.
86 Blue Fish 2004 Estate Riesling (Pfalz); $10. From a Pfalz cooperative, this is a strong effort at a bargain price. It’s not the most complex Riesling, but its aromas of cinnamon-dusted apples are followed by refreshing off-dry flavors of apple and melon. Don’t be put off by the blue bottle or the bold yellow label; the wine inside is what counts—and it’s pretty darn good. —J.C.
86 Cantina di Custoza 2003 Trebbiano (Lugana); $12. Peach, kiwi, mango, grapefruit and apricot merge with spring flowers and orange blossoms to accent a brilliantly colored wine with crisp tartness and concentrated flavor. It also has a unique consistency that is both chewy and sticky and promotes a long, polished finish. A wonderful leisurely-lunch-on-the-patio wine. —M.L.
86 Fazio 2004 Capo Soprano (Sicilia); $NA. Here’s an innovative Old World take on the Australian model. Sicily’s Fazio Wines, run by brothers Girolamo and Vincenzo, has cooked up snazzy packaging for a Catarratto (an indigenous grape) and Chardonnay blend that definitely delivers the goods. Fresh-cut grass, honey, citrus and exotic fruit with moderate acidity and good structure are perfect for everyday drinking. —M.L.
86 Four Emus 2005 Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon (Western Australia); $11. A 50-50 blend, with aromas and flavors of green pea, mineral and citrus. It’s a fresh, crisp wine, but don’t let the Sauvignon component bring visions of puckery, zesty New Zealand editions to mind. The Sem is an equal partner, adding both heft and a musky, haylike accent. It’s nice to see value-priced wines from somewhere other than South Eastern Australia, too. 15,000 cases produced. —D.T.
86 Hope Estate 2005 Verdelho (Hunter Valley); $10. Offers good structure and juicy stone fruit at a giveaway price. This dry white is medium-sized, with straw and nut accents to its ripe stone fruit flavor. Offers meaty, nutty notes on the nose, too. A fine introduction to the variety. —D.T.
86 Marqués de Cáceres 2004 Blanco (Rioja); $7. Always a solid Rioja white; the 2004, made from Viura grapes, is ripe and refreshing, with aromas of melon and canned fruit. Fresh on the palate, with notes of green herbs, dry melon, apple and white pepper. Zesty and clean, with dryness and pepper to the finish. This is your classic apéritif wine; it requires very little thought and it works with appetizers like crudité, oysters or shrimp canapés. —M.S.
85 Cline 2004 Viognier (Sonoma County); $10. Cline Cellars was one of California’s original Rhône Rangers, and the winery continues to specialize in Rhône wines, red and white. The grapes for this wine came from estate vineyards in the Carneros, which were cool-fermented to preserve fruit. Rich and exotic in pineapple, papaya, wildflower and spice flavors, this beautiful Viognier has a long, crisp, honeyed aftertaste. Good as an apéritif, or with tuna tartare. —S.H.