I've had some great cheeses from Italy's Vallée d'Aosta, up in the country's northwest corner, but never wine. So when I spied a white wine from there on the wine list at Salt House in San Francisco, I had to try it. The grape, Petite Arvine, makes some relatively rare but compelling wines in Switzerland.
It makes sense that the grape grows in Vallée d'Aosta, just across the border from Switzerland. Les Cretes has been developing an underground fan club, and after a taste of the 2006 Vigne Chaporette I can see why. I first noticed a steely minerality, but when the stone fruit and tangy citrus flavors started flowing, I was won over. An extra year in the bottle had added a creamy texture to the lively acidity, and the length was substantial. I rated it 90 points, non-blind, on the basis of its distinctiveness.
It wasn't cheap at $80 on the restaurant wine list, but it's a compelling option for those looking for something different in a white wine. The flavors cozied up to a thick, rib-sticking celery root and apple soup I had as a first course. Fontina, one cheese I like from Vallée d'Aosta, might have made a better match, had it been available.
Les Cretes Petite Arvine Valle d'Aosta Vigne Chaporette 2006 (88, $40, 2,100 cases made)