A Crowd-Pleasing White that Deserves Its Popularity

Conundrum California 2007
James Molesworth
Posted: December 23, 2009

This is a wine that needs little introduction; first made by Caymus, the Napa Cabernet specialist, this white was later given its own winery and separate label.

Conundrum is a kitchen-sink blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Sémillon, Viognier, Muscat Canelli and other varieties (the winery won’t disclose the actual percentages of the blend). It’s very popular in some circles, partly because it’s slightly off-dry, made in large quantities, is well-distributed and carries a relatively modest price tag (around $22 at retail).

Of course, all of that makes it unpopular in some other wine circles. Purists and terroir lovers would argue that this wine has little to do with a sense of place, and thus isn’t a good wine. Well, they’re partly right. I agree that drinking Conundrum takes you to nowhere in particular, as opposed to, say, a light, dry Provençal rosé or a big, showy Barossa Shiraz.

But that doesn’t mean Conundrum isn’t a good wine. Remove the “style” argument and its image as a non-terroir crowd pleaser (these influences are reasons we taste blind when officially reviewing wines) and what you have is a clean, fruity, juicy wine that sports lots of tangerine, apricot and apple flavors, which are round and easy to like. As for matching with food, it also happened to go perfectly well with the turkey curry I made with the Thanksgiving leftovers. 86 points for me, non-blind.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Conundrum California 2007 (88, $24).

• Plus, get our quick list of Easy Finds among California whites.

FREE: Ask Dr. Vinny—Is terroir more important than variety?

Member comments   3 comment(s)

Gary G Corcoran — Paradise, Newfoundland, Canada —  January 19, 2010 9:51pm ET

James, one of the best white wines I remember tasting was the 97 Conundrum. Apricots, pears and fruits came through like none I have ever tasted. I have not been able to find the same in the Conundrum since. Was the 97 a special year?
Gary


Gary G Corcoran — Paradise, Newfoundland, Canada —  January 19, 2010 9:51pm ET

James, one of the best white wines I remember tasting was the 97 Conundrum. Apricots, pears and fruits came through like none I have ever tasted. I have not been able to find the same in the Conundrum since. Was the 97 a special year?
Gary


James Molesworth — Senior Editor, Wine Spectator —  January 20, 2010 9:37am ET

Gary: '97 was a great vintage in California - ripe, powerful and consistent across varieties and regions...but I'm not the California guy (my colleague James Laube is) so not sure what changes, if any, there may have been in the blend, fruit source, vinification, etc, since then...

Of course, it could be a case of having your wine epiphany...they come infrequently at best, and can come from any wines wine at any time...they are never duplicated, but never forgotten...


Would you like to comment?

Want to join or start a discussion? Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!

To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. To learn more about member benefits, take our site tour.

MEMBER LOGIN

= members only

Keep me logged in      Forgot Password?

Free Email Newsletters

Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions

» View samples
» Or sign up now!
» Manage my newsletter preferences

Classifieds

The marketplace for all your wine needs, including:

Wine Storage | Wine Clubs
Dining & Travel | Wine Auctions
Wine Shops | Wine Accessories