In tough times we continue the search for good, inexpensive wines. With summer already waning – didn’t it start barely three weeks ago? – we focus on white wines this month.

Wines of Substance is a project from Jamie Brown of Waters Winery and Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars. The winery focuses on single varietal offerings with each of the wines featuring black and white labels with a periodic table style notation. The 2009 Pinot Gris is a fairly full-bodied white with callouts to the Old World.

Chateau Ste. Michelle is the world’s largest producer of Riesling and also one of its biggest champions. The winery recently conducted its third Riesling Rendezvous, bringing together growers, winemakers, and people from around the industry for a three day series of seminars and discussions about the grape. Chateau Ste. Michelle makes numerous different Rieslings – as many as eight in any given year – from dry to off-dry to sweet. The winery is one of a number utlitizing the International Riesling Foundation’s taste profile to assist consumers with understanding the level of sweetness of a wine before purchase. The two wines are featured here are Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Dry Riesling and its Columbia Valley Riesling, which is off-dry. When the previous vintage of the Dry Riesling was blind tasted at the Riesling Rendezvous and white winemaker Wendy Stuckey announced its retail price, the room spontaneously burst into applause. This vintage is every bit as good.

Aligoté has extensive plantings in Eastern Europe and plays second fiddle to Chardonnay in Burgundy in terms of white grapes. However, it is a rare varietal in Washington. This wine, which comes from Jed Steele’s Shooting Star, uses fruit from Snipes Mountain AVA. The wine is barrel fermented using mostly neutral wood.

Rob Griffin of Barnard Griffin – whose wife Deborah provides the first half of the winery name – began making wine under his own label in 1983. Barnard Griffin started out that year making four hundred cases of wine. The winery has since grown to become one of Washington’s larger mid-sized producers with an annual production of more than 75,000 cases. Indeed, Barnard Griffin makes a staggering 22,000 cases of the Chardonnay reviewed below.

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Previous months’ Five Under $15

Wines of Substance Pinot Gris Washington State 2009 $15

Rating: + (Good) Nose is marked by pink grapefruit, Golden Delicious apples, and mineral notes. Tingles the tongue with acidity on a palate full of melon flavors. 100% Pinot Gris. Minnick Vineyard, Yakima Valley. Aged in stainless steel. Recommended.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling Columbia Valley 2009 $9
Rating: + (Good) An appealing, aromatic nose with lime, lemon, and mineral. Bone dry on a palate full of fruit. 100% Riesling. 13% alcohol. Recommended.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling Columbia Valley 2009 $9
Rating: + (Good) An aromatic nose with lime, stone fruit, and mineral. Palate shows just the slightest bit of sweetness nicely balanced by acidity. Abundant lime and honeydew melon flavors. Recommended.

Shooting Star Aligote Washington State 2008 $14

Rating: + (Good) Lightly aromatic nose with floral and mineral notes along with a distinctive flint aroma. Palate is crisp with puckering acidity and Granny Smith apple flavors. Not a wine to drink on its own but a nice accompaniment to the dinner table. 13.5% alcohol.

Barnard Griffin Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2008 $14
Rating: ./+ (Decent/Good) Nose initially shows some tropical fruit aromas which quickly change to sliced yellow apples, grass, and mineral. A lot of fruit on the palate but needs a bit more acidity to hold it all together. Still, a quite enjoyable for the price. 100% Chardonnay. Caroway, Sagemoor, Conner Lee, and Arête vineyards. 19% barrel fermented in French oak. 40% malolactic fermentation. 12.9% alcohol. 23,000 cases produced.