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Blends can be blissful

With rich taste and complex bouquet, white varietals marry well

In wine, as in cooking, sometimes the whole really is more than the sum of the parts. While wine made with a single type of grape is often easier to recognize and order, wines made from a combination of grapes can be just as exciting, if not more so.

Winemakers long have recognized the merits of combining more than one grape varietal to get the best of multiple characteristics. The ripe plum fruit of merlot, powerful tannins of cabernet sauvignon and the floral and red berry notes of cabernet franc come together for one of the most classic grape marriages of all, the rich, engaging wines of Bordeaux.

Willamette Valley vintners are among the many New World wine producers to embrace the potential for making great wines out of unique blends. Not only does combining grape varietals allow for distinct and exciting wines, but it also frees producers from relying solely on one or two expensive-to-grow varieties for their fruit selection, resulting in excellent wines at reasonable prices.

Each of these white wines is made from a blend of at least three grapes, and each is quite different. All of them, however, would be right at home with a variety of foods, or simply as a reward for a long day at, well, wherever you spend your day. Lest you think red wine zealots are not getting their due, next week a selection of gulpable red blends will be featured.

The 2002 Brooks Amycas ($12) falls on the lighter side of the scale, with a nose that shows elements of grapefruit and red apple, as well some faintly floral notes. Primarily pinot gris and Riesling, this wine also has a bit of GewŸrztraminer in it, which gives it faint aromas of spice and minerality. Once it's in your mouth, there's more red apple flavor, with a nice crispness that keeps it fresh. A more subtle wine, it shines when the food, or the weather, is hot.

Another combination of Riesling's structure and fruit with the body of pinot gris comes to us in the form of the 2002 Cristo Misto ($10) from J. Christopher. This time, though, there's some sauvignon blanc added to the mix. Stick your nose in a glass of this and you'll meet classic sauvignon blanc aromas such as green apple and citrus fruits, mixed with the slightly steely notes of Riesling. This wine is addictively crisp and bright, and while it is light on the palate, the finish hangs on long enough to keep you coming back for more.

While the most famous white wines of Burgundy are made from chardonnay, there are other white grapes grown there as well. You can find all five of them (melon, aligotŽ, pinot blanc, pinot gris and chardonnay) in the 2001 La Fete ($12) from La Bete. La Fete, 'the party,' in French, is a full-bodied wine, with ripe pear and melon throughout and lush floral aromas.

This wine's appeal lies in its powerful, upfront qualities, which make it a perfect contrast to the more subtle charms of the other two wines. Beyond its ability to complement full-bodied dishes, La Fete is just plain tasty all by itself.

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