The rocky alluvial soils of California's Knights Valley give this blend its name. As in Bordeaux, used in equal portions Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon create the backbone for this white blend, but judicious amounts of Chardonnay and Viognier were also added for layered complexity and richness. Winemaker Ed Sbragia pulled out all the stops on this one, which he rightly calls "a balancing act." The individual components were separately barrel-fermented in French Nevers oak, stirred frequently on the lees, and then put through full malolactic fermentation to add a soft, buttery mouth feel.

Alluvium Blanc is creamy and smooth with touches of honey and toast. The firm finish makes this a great food wine.

NIEBAUM-COPPOLA BLANCANEAUX 1999 ($30)


For the past 10 years, film director Francis Ford Coppola has had a project "in development" - a wine, not a movie. He wanted a white wine to complement his flagship red, Rubicon. After many taste trials, the wine has finally arrived. Coppola calls it Blancaneaux. The name is a good choice for a white (blanc) blend, but it also happens, not coincidentally, to be the name of Coppola's mountain hideaway resort in Belize, the Blancaneaux Lodge.

Like the wines of Condrieu that Coppola loves, Blancaneaux is produced in limited supply. It's got a substantial base of familiar Chardonnay, around which three more exotic white Rhône varietals - Roussanne, Viognier, and Marsanne - are woven. The finished product is dense and highly extracted, with edgy fruit and a long, rich finish.

By the way, although it was originally Coppola's private retreat, the Blancaneaux Lodge is now open to the public (www.blancaneauxlodge.com).

CAYMUS VINEYARDS CONUNDRUM 1999 ($22)