We love coming across quirky little wines like the 2011 Chehalem "Inox" Willamette Valley Chardonnay we picked up for about $18 at one of our favorite small independent wine shops.
Willamette Valley is the pride of Oregon and best known for its stunning pinot noirs. This unoaked chard shows it's a great place for whites of character, too.
What qualifies it as quirky? Let's start with a very modest nose of understated peach, not what we expect from a rarely retiring wine like a chard. Then there is the big news on the tongue, where, without the mellowing influence of oak aging, the wine's white peach, shy pear and sneaky lemon blend into an absolutely creamy, even buttery mouthfeel. Still light as a zephyr but big and round nonetheless. The finish, too, is mild and self-effacing, with a little pop of white pepper right at the end. Add it up and you have a delightfully refreshing and flirty summer white.
Pair it with cold buttermilk fried chicken in your picnic basket or cool yourself with judicious sips as you flip shrimp on the barbie poolside.
Colette Bancroft is the Times' book editor, and John Bancroft is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.