We continue the tasting with a gang of white wines. White on, bro!
2016 Palmina Pinot Grigio “Santa Barbara”–Palmina is a project featuring Italian grape varieties grown & produced in the Santa Barbara appellation of California by winemaker Steve Clifton. (Quite candidly, I am not quite sure who else is still involved with Steve). The 2016 is markedly different from the previous Pinot Grigio bottlings. It definitely has a more coppery hue to the naked eye, which reminds me of a more ramato (skin contact) style. The wine is still tasty, refined, seamless–just with a little more flesh & a bitter almond to the finish. I would also suggest that it is still greatly & thankfully still way underpriced. Thank you to Warren for sharing this bottle. 2016 Chehalem Pinot Gris “12th Ave Grill”–Here is a wine “designed” for head wine star, Rick Lily, over at 12th Ave Grill. As one taster noted–“I love it, because it is so pretty & delicious“. Can’t argue with that kind of endorsement. Kudos to you Mr. Lily! 2014 Au Bon Climat Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc “Santa Maria Valley”–This certainly was one of the standout white wines–very classy, elegant, seamless texture AND plenty of mojo in the core. I also love the superb balance AND mostly what a SENSATIONAL VALUE this truly is considering the price.
2015 Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc “Santa Ynez Valley”–I have been a huge fan of this bottling for a few vintages, as it showcased the very best attributes of what Sauvignon Blanc can be in California–elegance, refinement, class with sublime, earth driven nuances. Quite candidly, however, I was a little disappointed with this particular wine. Although it still showed much of the characteristics I had previously admired, it was rather lackluster, disjointed & kind of a “plain Jane” on this night. I think it was mainly due to following the previously tasted Au Bon Climat wine. It still was quite good & undoubtedly dwarfed the New Zealander that followed–2015 Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc “Marlborough” (from Clos Henri) with much rounder edges, seamlessness & a much better finish.
2015 Cambiata Albariño “Monterey”–Such subtle & enticing perfume with seamlessness & wonderful flow on the palate. We have really been working hard to find such fragrant, aromatic grape varieties, as they provide a very different compatibility when pairing with foods. This one is from our wine friend Eric Laumann, using vines grown especially for him down in Monterey. In addition, this wine really does over deliver for the dollar. The sad news is, there was apparently only 205 cases produced. I am not so sure what to say about the 2013 Matthiasson White Wine “Napa Valley”. Winemaker Steve Matthiasson has developed a huge following, especially among the sommelier scene. We therefore had big expectations for this wine, because the core is Ribolla Gialla, an Italian/Slovenian grape variety (vine cuttings from Josko Gravner) which Steve is especially high on. It was unexpectedly & unfortunately quite underwhelming on this night (forward, hollow in the middle, no core to it, & oaky/alcoholic & bitter in the finish). Maybe it was due to shipping or storage, which was undetermined, because no one said they brought it. It was still a treat to try.
2013 Melville Viognier “Verna’s Vineyard”–the first commercial Californian grown Viognier I tasted was a 1986 from Bill Smith of La Jota up on Howell Mountain. The next, shortly thereafter was one from Calera. Because of its wonderful perfume & aromatics, it seemed to really catch on & lots of people were planting it. It was en vogue. The challenge for me, however was finding “good” ones. I remember trying one in the early 90’s which was organically grown in the Russian River appellation. It was exotically perfumed, as expected, thick viscous, luscious, BUT flabby, quite hollow, noticeably alcoholic & bitter. The following year the same winemaker contacted me again, with much eagerness over his new rendition. The grapes came from the same vineyard, but he noted harvested at way lower brix to retain the acidity & freshness. In both cases, I just felt, this quite fickle grape variety really didn’t do too well in his spot. I have found that this exotically scented grape variety seems to do especially well in the marine soils & cool growing confines of Santa Barbara county. Here was a stellar example–enticing, uplifting perfume, the weight of a Chardonnay grown in the same vineyard, an interplay of exotic & minerality, seamlessness & lovely, captivating deliciousness. Thank you Micah for sharing.
2014 Folk Machine Chenin Blanc–Chenin Blanc did not have such a good reputation over the years in California. There were far too many that would lacksidasically grown & made. Along came former skateboarder Kenny Likitprakong who found some very interesting Chenin Blanc sources, the first from down south in the Santa Barbara appellation & more recently from the old vine Norgard Vineyard on the Talmage Bench in Mendocino in 2010. I believe these vines are more like 36 years in age. While this wine does not have too much resemblance to the Chenin Blancs of France’s Loire Valley (& so it should be, by the way. This is California after all!), this particular bottling is a fairly good drink & certainly much better suited for the dinner table than most Californian Sauvignon Blanc bottlings I have tasted. The 2015 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier–was kindly brought to share by one of Hawaii’s top sommeliers. He routinely buys this at the wine store for under $13 a bottle & feels he really gets his bang for his buck. Thank you for sharing!