July 26, 2013 at 4:54 PM ET
What if there were a white wine you could drink with just about any food, a wine so versatile that it would go well with everything from Chinese to strong cheeses to all kinds of fish – even a cheeseburger?
That wine is called Conundrum. It’s a well-known white blend from California that I hadn’t tasted in many years until friends served it the other evening with hors d’oeurves, including several cheeses and sliced salami.
When you breathe in the 2011 White Conundrum, you’re struck immediately by its floral aromas and a hint of sweetness that comes through even before you taste it. But this is a relatively dry white wine, supported by firm acidity that keeps it refreshing and makes it such a successful food companion.
As I recalled the wine from past tastings, I thought it would be heavier than it is. Instead, this latest vintage of Conundrum is medium-bodied, with alcohol listed at a modest 13.5 percent. It’s both easy to drink and complex.
With its floral character, I guessed that the blend might include some gewürztraminer, the Alsatian and German variety that is grown in small quantities in California. I was wrong again. The fragrance comes from semillon and muscat, which are blended with sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and viognier. The tastes include pear, honey, orange peel and a touch of vanilla, all of it coming together in a wine of elegance and character.
Conundrum is part of the Wagner Family of Wine, and an interesting short video with the owner and winemaker provides more on the philosophy behind the wine, which was introduced 24 years ago (there is also a relatively new red Conundrum, which I haven’t tasted).
Although it is made in the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County, Conundrum carries the broad “California” appellation, suggesting that the fruit is sourced from a number of regions in the state.
Wine-searcher lists the average price at $20 but many retailers sell it for less. Despite its name, there is nothing puzzling about Conundrum. It’s a clear choice for something different – and delicious – from California.