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Sep 24, 2011 09:35 PM

Help Getting Past White Zinfandel

We have dear friends who are stuck on white zinfandel. Every time they try to order a glass in a NYC restaurant, the waiter cringes (okay, I cringe too). I'm not sure what about dry wine doesn't work for them. We decided to send them 4 bottles of other white varieties that they should try, reisling comes to mind, but what else will help us wean them off white zinfandel? Try to keep the total of the 4 bottles under $100. Suggest away.....

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  1. The only problem with Riesling is the different sweetness levels and choosing one they may like. If they don't like what you get them, they may think they don't like Rieslings period.

    I'd go with a Cremant bubbler and a rose wine. Bandol makes a great, albeit expensive rose. JK Carriere makes my favorite rose, although it will likely be difficult to find. I know Domain Chandon makes a cremant, but it will likely be difficult to find and I'm not sure on the price. Merlot is a typical entry to red wines for those that don't like them. Whitehall Lane makes a solid Merlot for about $30. Finally, Sauv Blanc from New Zealand may fit their flavor profile. Matua or Kim Crawford may fit the bill for $15 - $20.

    1. >>> We decided to send them 4 bottles of other white varieties that they should try, reisling comes to mind, but what else will help us wean them off white zinfandel? Try to keep the total of the 4 bottles under $100. Suggest away..... <<<

      Personally, I have always believed in "baby steps," rather than starting off by running in the Olympics. And while Terry is correct about the different levels of sweetness in Rieslings, and though he suggested some very nice wines, there isn't one of them I would suggest for your friends.

      Now keep in mind that I am presuming one of the things your friends like about White Zinfandel is that they are, for the most part, off-dry and quite fruity. There are hundreds of off-dry, fruity wines out there of *significantly* better quality than your average White Zin. Some people simply do NOT LIKE dry wines, and to (metaphorically, at least) pour dry wines down their throats may end up costing you friends, rather than recruiting new wine drinkers . . .

      IMHO, the four wines should be just different enough from their "usual" to open their eyes and peak their curiosity, and not so different as to scare them away . . . as such, I'd look towards California for most of the wines, as it's already a somewhat familiar place. But I wouldn't limit myself just to white, as I would include one *true* rosé to show them that women shopping at Victoria's Secret are not the only people who "Love Pink."

      If, in fact, you have access to NYC (though I think you live in CT), the first step is to talk with a good retailer -- there's little point in recommending wines from California that you can't find in NewYork. Explain what you want to do, and have them help you.

      That said, here are some suggestions anyway -- if you can't find these specific wines, ask the retailer for something in a similar style. And remember . . .

      >>> I'm not sure what about dry wine doesn't work for them. <<<

      . . . since dry wine doesn't work from them, stay away from bone-dry wines!

      For a comforting color, start with a rosé made from Grenache grapes from the Côte-du-Rhône region of France or the Rioja region of Spain. Look for producers such as Domaine de la Mordorée, Château de Ségrèis, Vega Sinaloa, Muga, and others. This should run you between $12-20, depending upon the specific producer. Keep it simple; don't go for "the best," and certainly don't go for the most expensive or most esoteric.

      Now, I actually *would* look for a Riesling, but I'd avoid Germany, Austria and Alsace. The wines from these regions, while excellent (indeed, I enjoy them very much, and with some frequency!), are probably too minerally, too acidic, and not fruity/fleshy enough for them. Rather, I'd look for an off-dry Riesling from grapes grown in Monterey County or Santa Barbara County -- something like Ventana Vineyards, Storrs, Bargetto, etc. Again, well under $20 . . .

      I would honestly get them a bottle of "buttery" California Chardonnay to try -- again, not too expensive -- even something like K-J, Wente, or Robert Mondavi. You want a middle-of-the-road, "starter" wine.

      For the fourth bottle, you have lots of options. I'd avoid a straight Sauvignon Blanc; IMHO, it's too austere in many cases for your friends right now. Perhaps later. You could get them an off-dry California Chenin Blanc, say from Pine Ridge, or a Spanish Rueda, a French Pinot Blanc from Alsace, or even a Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc (e.g.: Guigal), or something like a Beaujolais Blanc from Brun or Jadot . . .

      Again, explain what you want to do to a respected wine retailer, and he/she will have lots of on-target suggestions for you.


      6 Replies
      1. re: zin1953

        There are a lot of decent NY state Reislings as well. Some of them are too sweet for me, but possibly perfect for weaning people off of white zin. One that comes to mind is Hermann Weimer.

        1. re: zin1953

          Great information Jason, just curious if you think an off dry Gewurztraminer might work on the white side or perhaps a Lambrusco steering them towards a red.



          1. re: PolarBear

            Gewürztraminer (GT) is one of the very few wines that truly is an acquired taste. Well, no, that's not it exactly. But if you smell a Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet, Pinot, Zin -- almost any wine -- it "tastes like it smells." In other words, the aromas of the wine lead one right into the taste. But, quite often, GT is a schizophrenic wine -- like smelling from Glass A, but tasting from Glass B. That is, or at a minimum *can be* disconcerting to someone newly exploring the world of wines. (Viognier -- well, the ones that smell like pine -- is the same way.) It is for this reason ONLY that I did not mention GT in my original reply.

            Lambrusco, and Merlot, are two "gateway" wines -- the trouble with Lambrusco is that you really want them to try a *good* one, and not one made for the mass market.


            1. re: zin1953

              I'm curious about Lambrusco because I've never had one. But I already like serious wine. Does that mean I shouldn't try a Lambrusco because it's just a "gateway" wine and I'll be disappointed.

              1. re: omotosando

                Let's see . . . I also said Merlot was a gateway wine --> does that mean you should never drink a Merlot because you "already like serious wine"?

          2. re: zin1953

            Yes, a fruit-forward Chard would be a likely suspect, and one that I just failed to mention in my reply. The K-J Vintner's Reserve would be a possibility, especially with the RS (Residual Sugar). Another, and in the OP's price range, would be the J. Lohr Riverstone Chard. Not sure if there is any RS, but flavor profiles are somewhat similar.

            Good thoughts,


          3. I think a pinot grigio on the sweeter side would be a great gateway to more dry whites.

            3 Replies
            1. re: inaplasticcup

              there are "sweet" pinot grigios? really?

              1. re: lifeasbinge

                Well, I don't know of any . . . unless we're discussing Pinot Gris Sélections des Grains Nobles from Alsace.

                1. re: lifeasbinge

                  Not sweet like white zins, but on the sweeter end of the spectrum for pinot grigios. I guess I wasn't clear enough in my original expression.

              2. One final detail I just learned. They live in Pennsylvania and it seems they have draconian wine
                delivery laws. Anyone out there expert in sending to PA? It seems mean to send a gift that they then have to pick up at a liquor store. Is there any roundabout way to have the wine delivered to their door from a wine distributor? Thanks

                10 Replies
                  1. re: meinNYC

                    WOW. So you mean to say that the post office/UPS/FedEx can't deliver wine to a PA resident?

                    Those poor, poor Pennsylvanians... :(

                    1. re: inaplasticcup

                      I deal with this all the time. You have to send it to an address just over the state line. I send wine to New Jersey for my brother in Philly. I've checked the prices to send direct to PA and the price for shipping for each bottle was $25.

                      1. re: inaplasticcup

                        It is ALWAYS illegal to use the US Postal Service to ship alcoholic beverages.

                        UPS and FedEx will only accept shipments to certain states.

                        1. re: zin1953

                          Interesting! Thanks for the info, zin. I would never have thought...

                          1. re: inaplasticcup

                            And........... further to zin1953's post, UPS & FedEx will only take wine shipments FROM licensed entities like wine retailers and wineries. You, as an individual, are not allowed to ship wine..... period. You can, however, ship olive oil or juice....;o))))).

                            1. re: Midlife

                              Well it wouldn't be the first ridiculous regulation we've ever had to live by... :|

                              1. re: Midlife

                                <You can, however, ship olive oil or juice....;o))))).>

                                Or "glassware."

                            2. re: zin1953

                              And UPS/FedEx won't accept shipments from people not licensed to ship alcohol--businesses, that is, not private individuals.

                              @MeinNYC: another attraction to your friends besides sweetness might be the relative low acidity of white zin. I run into this a lot in people who like off-dry wines (as well as, conversely, opposition to roses because they are all believed to be that way). Pinot gris might be a better white choice than riesling, for that reason.

                          2. re: meinNYC

                            A gift certificate to their local wine store sounds like a fine idea, and a knowledgeable owner or employee will be able to ask the right leading questions.

                          3. Thanks all, I will work on your suggestions. They live in Central PA so hopping over the border to NJ is not an option. I guess they will have to pick up the gift at a local wine store.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: meinNYC

                              I have heard of people shipping "olive oil" into such states. I have heard that they take their sealed box of bottled "olive oil" into their local pack and ship and ship away. But be careful, "olive oil" can be temperature sensitive so use an insulated box and consider weather conditions.

                              The risks are that if the "olive oil" breaks or leaks insurance won't cover the "olive oil" because some states won't let you ship "olive oil" into them.

                              1. re: HoosierFoodie

                                Hoosier, don't forget homemade vinegars and "computer parts".

                                1. re: HoosierFoodie

                                  You also want to make sure that the "olive oil" bottles don't clink together (are packed quite securely) otherwise some employees from FedEx/UPS may wonder if it's really "olive oil," open your box and take your "olive oil"