White wines for the winter season

  • Ripe chardonnay in Santa Lucia highlands. (Hayley Hamilton-Cogill/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Hayley Hamilton Cogill.

Though temperatures aren’t necessarily freezing on the Big Island this time of year, they are cooler than average, making this the perfect time to sip an unctuous white wine with luscious texture and beautiful character.

Chardonnay is a go-to white wine to warm you from inside, as the malleable variety absorbs vineyard characteristics, while delivering a medium to full-bodied wine. When grown in warmer climates, like various parts of California, the wines offer tropical fruit flavors, mimicking our island favorites, like pineapple, mango, and guava, ideal for this time of year.


Utilizing 100% new and used French oak barrel fermentation, En Route “Brumaire” Russian River Chardonnay ($40), has distinct character with sublime style with creamy lemon custard, peach, and honey. With an Old-World style, blending with New-World California character, Alpha Omega Napa Valley Chardonnay ($82) layers candied citrus with apricot and baked peaches.

The majestic Carneros vineyards of Donum Estate, dotted with pristine works of art among the rolling hills of vines, reveals the dedication the winery has to an ever-evolving living system, expressing beauty through a singular sense of place. This vision shines through their wines, with the Carneros Estate Chardonnay ($75) showing spicy ginger and toasted spice.

Sunshine-filled days marry cold nights in FEL’s Anderson County Chardonnay ($32) from rugged, rustic vines, producing an earthy, slightly flinty wine with lemon balm, orange and lime blossom. From Napa’s Spring Mountain, using old vines of Chardonnay, averaging 25-35 years, Stony Hill ($54) brings a similar mineral-intense earthiness to their luscious Chardonnay, with structure, texture, and body.

With over 170 years of California winemaking, Buena Vista “Chateau Buena Vista” Carneros Chardonnay ($35) has a ripe fruit-filled style, with tropical mango, caramelized pineapple, and banana. Napa’s Cakebread Winery ($40) shows meringue, lemon ice box pie, and creamy vanilla in their opulent Chardonnay, ideal for lobster or seared scallop pairings.

From a somewhat unexpected area for Chardonnay, Spain’s Hacienda de Arinzano ($20) showcases a rustic earthiness to the orchard fruit-filled wine, with ripe Asian pear. Sonoma’s Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay ($42) is complex and creamy, with baking spice, lemon oil, and toasted marshmallow, melding with crushed stone and soft herbs for a complete warming white wine.

Consistently delicious, Decoy Chardonnay ($20) delivers ripe apple, nectarine, and white flowers. Similarly, Hahn SLH Chardonnay ($25) reveals a well-rounded wine, melding orchard and stone fruit, with an engaging palate that lingers on and on. Aged 14 months in predominantly new French oak, Monterey’s Metz Road Riverview Vineyard Chardonnay ($30) reveals hazelnut, buttery brioche, and golden apple.

The white varieties of France’s Rhone Valley, including Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne, blend to create a medium-bodied, well-rounded, viscous palate with loads of peach, apricot, and white flowers.

Adding aromatic Roussanne with Chardonnay, The Snitch ($35) reveals a mixture of green apple, ripe mango, and nutmeg. Slightly richer, with creamy butterscotch, Blindfold ($32) blends half a dozen varieties together, including Chardonnay and Viognier, for a succulent, aromatic wine perfect for creamy pasta dishes and soft cheeses. Showcasing ripe apricot, orange blossom, and blanched almond, Stags’ Leap Winery Viognier ($32) is a nicely structured wine with mouthwatering flavor.

Southern Rhone’s De Vaucluse “Le Pigeoulet” Blanc ($22) forms a well-rounded palate, without being too weighty, balancing ripe nectarine and apricot with bright acidity, perfect for pairing with Mediterranean inspired dishes like grilled fish with fresh herbs.


The Bordeaux variety, Semillon has been a staple white grape for decades in Argentina. Mendel crafts a luscious expression with wildflowers, soft herbs, and lanolin. Highly aromatic, with jasmine, lemon blossom, and mint, Skouras Zoe ($15) blends two Greek varieties, Roditis and Moscofilero, for an appealing wine with freshness, body, and a food-friendly style.

Blending aging techniques, including oak, concrete, and stainless steel, Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc ($30) reveals a textured wine with ripe Meyer lemon, creamy lemon meringue, soft herbs, and marzipan. Sumptuous Cuvaison Methode Beton Sauvignon Blanc ($40) utilizes 11 months of aging in concrete eggs to add concentrated complexity, delivering a wine with suppleness and vitality. Sonoma’s Hamel Sauvignon Blanc ($48) uses both stainless steel and neutral French oak barrels for fermentation and aging, revealing tropical pineapple and honeydew.

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