Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Two Wonderful White Wines

It’s always nice to discover a casual place with a carefully curated wine list. With a few minutes to kill in downtown Los Angeles, I looked around and spied "Pitchoun!" It is described on the signage as a bakery with a French flair, so I stepped in for lunch.

It’s run by Frédéric and Fabienne Souliès, who hail from Provence and Monaco, respectively. The name of the place is a term of endearment used by French grandparents, say, in referring to their grandkids. It’s like "kiddo," or something similar. A little pinch on the cheek.

My Niçoise salad was the usual mix of tuna, tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, olives, radicchio, delicate greens, bell pepper, celery, cucumber, green onions, anchovies and vinaigrette. It was tasty, but it’s the wine I was attracted to. Oh, by the way, they also serve Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant at Pitchoun, so they got high marks from me before I even saw a wine list.

Sean and Nicole Minor started their own winery 12 years ago, after years of experience with some fairly big-name outfits. Minor's wine consultant, Will Bucklin, is similarly well-traveled. Minor's Four Bears Chardonnay has a golden tint and offers apples and apricots on the earthy nose. Minerals define the palate, with bright peach and pear forming a taut and focused flavor profile. It’s lean, but not mean. The acidity is quite nice, almost bracing. It always stuns me to find such nice freshness in a wine with so round a mouthfeel. Alcohol sits at 13% and some of the juice underwent malolactic fermentation, to soften the feel a bit. It finishes clean and snappy.

In the extreme southwest of France, in the Bas Armagnac AOC, is the Domaine de Menard. It has been a source of grapes since the 1920s, but not until a decade ago or so did the family begin wine production under their own name. They grow Petit and Gros Manseng and harvest the grapes late to produce a sweeter style of wine. The Gros Manseng is not a full-blown dessert wine, but does have a pleasant taste I think of as semi-sweet, or off-dry.

The Domaine Menard Gros Manseng also shows golden in the glass, offering a pungent slate of earthiness and wet rocks. The semi-sweet palate has apricots, honey and plenty of minerality. This wine, too, has a full, creamy mouthfeel as well as generous acidity and a clean finish.

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