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Big (House) White from California

Wine of the week: Bonny Doon’s attractive blend for just $10
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

“It’s like Heinz 57,” said a friend, referring to the famous ketchup maker and all its varieties. Only Heinz is red and the wine in question is white — Big House White, to be precise, from California’s Bonny Doon Vineyard. And instead of 57 varieties, the 2002 Big House White has a mere eight or so in its attractive $10 blend.

Something like 80 wine columns ago, I wrote about Bonny Doon’s Big House Red, a Mediterranean-style mix that is both big and versatile and would make for a more than decent house red on just about any kitchen counter. (Technically, Big House, as the illustration on the label suggests, refers to the location of the vineyard where some of the grapes are grown, a mile down the road from the state prison in Soledad.)

When I first tasted the white a year or so ago, the 2001 vintage didn’t leave much of an impression. The 2002, however, seemed just right with chicken grilled simply with lemon, herbs and white wine, and was also pleasant to sip on its own. Its aromas and tastes are dominated by peach, honey, gooseberry, lemon and lime. There’s a bit of creaminess on the finish. I would keep the food seasonings to the herbal rather than the highly spicy, which would tend to drown out the wine.

The blend, in decreasing order of prominence, includes Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Blanc, French Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Malvasia and Roussanne. Where else can you find all that for 10 bucks?

In the past, I have referred to Randall Grahm, Bonny Doon’s founder, as a kind of for-profit missionary. Maybe that’s no different from a marketing man. But by pushing the California wine envelope and helping to expose a Chardonnay nation to all kinds of lesser-known wine possibilities, he deserves the considerable attention he and his portfolio draw from his proselytizing.

Big House White represents another good opportunity to liberate yourself from the familiar old shackles of wine drinking for a relatively small ransom. And by the way, you won’t need any sharp instruments, such as a corkscrew, to set yourself free. Big House White (and Red) can now be unlocked and poured simply by unscrewing the convenient metal cap that Grahm has made the focus of another crusade.