Napa's Unsung Whites
Although the second most planted grape variety in Napa is Chardonnay—and the region is famous for it—Napa’s white wines have often been knocked as lacking the fruit and vibrancy found in wines grown in cooler areas.
And yet, these whites have a distinguished history. In the years following the repeal of Prohibition, Napa Valley Sémillon, Sylvaner, Folle Blanche, Traminer, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and many others, including Chardonnay, were esteemed on restaurant wine lists.
While great Napa Chardonnay remains rare, when it’s good, it’s very, very good.
The same can be said of other Napa whites, especially Sauvignon Blanc, arguably the region’s most expressive white wine.
Rhône-style white wines, including Viognier, are more questionable, but diligent searching will yield pay dirt.
Among the aromatic whites like Albariño, Grüner Veltliner, Riesling and Pinot Gris/Grigio, at their best they display classic Napa elegance and balance. The catch? There aren’t a lot of them.
—Steve Heimoff, photos by Frédéric Lagrange