Showing posts with label Picpoul Blanc. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Picpoul Blanc. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

White Wines Of The Earth

 

With Earth Day approaching, it would be remiss of me to not tap out a few words about a collection of "wines of the earth," from Bonny Doon Vineyards.

Bonny Doon winemaking partner Randall Grahm said in an email blast that the year 2020 was an "annus horribilis" for most of us, and that includes winemakers.  He notes that the "Biblical plagues of Smoke, Covid-19, Social Isolation and somewhat more prosaically, Business (and Life) Interruption" appear to be getting smaller in the rear-view mirror, which we hope is not just a trick of the light.

In the spirit of getting back to business, Graham and his new partners at WarRoom Ventures sent over a collection of their current releases for my opinions.  Graham says that production winemaker Nicole Walsh "was very clever and proactive in dealing with any suspected smoke taint issues before they could eventuate.  Skill, yes, but luck played a part, too."

Bonny Doon Vineyards Picpoul, Monterey County, Beeswax Vineyard 2020

Picpoul means "lip stinger" when translated from the French, as pictured on this wine's label.  The promise of a tingling acidity is delivered in full, making this one of the food-friendliest wines you'll find.  Try it with oysters on the half shell or cold crab claws for a real treat.

Graham heralds his 2020 Picpoul as coming, once again, from the "redoubtable Beeswax Vineyard in the Arroyo Seco appellation of Monterey County."  He says the white wine is "definitely super-savory, nay almost waxy/salty, perhaps even a bit more unctuous than in vintages heretofore."  He also likes the floral notes, which he says are often missing from Old World versions of Picpoul.  1800 cases were produced, with alcohol at 12.5% abv and the retail price of $15.

This wine is tinted light yellow and puts up a magnificent nose which is driven by citrus and salinity.  I don't get much of the floral note mentioned by Grahm, but there is a waxy or soapy element in the package of aromas.  The palate seems a bit heavier, oilier than bygone vintages, and the salinity comes across in the mouth as well as the nose.  Meyer lemon flavors are abundant, and while the acidity may not actually sting the lips, it is nice and racy and it awaits some crab cakes or grilled calamari.

Bonny Doon Vineyards Le Cigare Blanc 2020

The white version of the winery;s flagship "Cigare" line is the 2020 Le Cigare Blanc.  This wine underwent a radical change in the previous vintage and is now made from 60% Grenache Blanc grapes, 32% Vermentino and 8% Clairette Blanche.  Graham explains that it's the Vermentino which now leaves its mark most noticeably and the Clairette Blanche which sustains its length.  "Dusky, almost mentholated, doonright balsamic, in fact; it is an aromatic riot" of a wine which also sports a creamy texture.  

Bonny Doon made 5,200 cases of the 2020 Le Cigare Blanc, which carries alcohol at 13.5% abv and a retail sticker at $15.

The wine does indeed have quite the nose, with Meyer lemon, minerals and a fine salinity to its credit.  The palate brings a saline sensibility to the stone fruit and minerality, and the mouthfeel is fairly hefty - especially for a white wine.  The finish keeps the minerals in mind, with a hint of apricot


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Monday, May 11, 2020

Bonny Doon's Pink Wine Of The Earth

From Bonny Doon Vineyard comes the 2019 Vin Gris De Cigare.  The winery's flagship pink wine is named for the reported alien spacecraft "banned by decree of the village council of Châteauneuf-du-Pape." The flying cigars may not be allowed to land in France, but they land in my place a lot. They are welcome visitors from another appellation far, far away. Well, just a bit north of me, anyway.  Their rosé is a favorite of mine.

The grapes for Vin Gris De Cigare were grown in Central Coast AVA - 79% Grenache, 5% Grenache Gris, 5% Grenache Blanc, 5% Vermentino, 3% Cinsault, 1.5% Picpoul and 1.5% Clairette Blanche.  Vineyards include Rava, Loma Del Rio and Alta Loma of Monterey County, Steinbeck of Paso Robles and Beeswax of the Arroyo Seco AVA.

Winemaker Randall Grahm says "the Grenache dominates this blend."  He continues the practice of leaving the wine on its lees post-fermentation.  Grahm feels that the spent yeast cells give a "wonderful creaminess and length" to the wine.  This rosé is not made in the saignée method, where juice is bled off in the process of making red wine.  The grapes were selected and used specifically for this wine. The iconic label art is from an 1855 edition of Bordeaux Chateau, with a spaceship courtesy of Jules Verne, circa 1870.  The wine hits 13.5% abv and sells for $15.

This pink wine's nose is dominated by strawberry, melon and tropical notes.  Graham says a suggestion of cassis and grapefruit is possibly a function of the cooler 2019 vintage.  On the palate, the wine has heft, a discernible weight I don't usually find in rosés.  There is a creaminess, too, owing to the time it spent sitting on its expended yeast cells.  The savory hallmarks of Graham's wines shine through, but the fruit is the star.  Despite the full mouthfeel, acidity is quite fine.  The finish is lengthy and somewhat citrusy.


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Monday, May 4, 2020

Lip Stinging White Wine From Bonny Doon

If you're looking for something a little different, a glance in the direction of Bonny Doon Vineyards is always a good idea.  Bonny Doon's 2019 Picpoul was made entirely from Picpoul grapes, of French origin but grown in California's Arroyo Seco AVA, in the Beeswax Vineyard. 

More closely aligned with France's Languedoc region, the Picpoul Blanc grape has taken root in Monterey and Sonoma counties, as well as in places like Texas, Arizona and Washington state.  The grape's name has been said to mean "lip stinger" in French, a nod to its high acidity.

Winemaker extraordinaire Randall Grahm says, "Beeswax Vineyard produces white grapes with the scent of, well, beeswax."  He says that fruit imparts a "unique savoriness, discernable brininess" to the wine.  Graham calls the Picpoul "super-savory, nay almost waxy/salty, with perhaps a bit more weight than in previous vintages."  He says the 2019 may be his favorite BDV Picpoul to date.  He also notes a floral quality in his recent Picpoul vintages which he feels is often missing in versions from the Old World.  The wine lays back at only 11% abv and retails for $15.  Wendy Cook did the label art, which has a graphic pronouncer for Picpoul.

There is a huge citrus aspect at play on the nose, limes, lemons, oranges, the works.  That floral quality has a lot of competition in the sniff.  The palate offers up a fabulous acidity, with salinity and minerals to join the aforementioned fruit.  This is a serious white wine that can serve as so much more than a sipper with salad.  It's a perfect wine to pair with with crustaceans and mollusks. 


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Monday, January 6, 2020

Winter White Wines

White wines are not just for summers and salads.  There are rich, full-bodied whites which are bold and warming - perfect for the colder weather.  They also pair beautifully with winter dishes - root vegetables, stews and herbs like fennel go particularly well with a nice, well balanced Chardonnay, for example.  I find that whites aged in oak serve me better in the winter than unoaked wines.  In fact, oak makes a white wine feels like Christmas to me.  I prefer an easy touch on the wood, however. 

Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Tablas Blanc 2017

Tablas Creek Vineyards was founded by the Perrin family - of Château de Beaucastel fame - and the late Robert Haas of Vineyard Brands.  The winery is dedicated to sustainably farming Rhône grape varieties in what is now the Adelaida District of Paso Robles.  To try and replicate the Beaucastel estate's renowned quality, the partners imported vines from the French estate - Mourvédre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Counoise, Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc among them. 

The 2017 Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Tablas Blanc is a blend of five of those estate-grown varieties, grown from Beaucastel cuttings.  The winery says the Roussanne grapes provide the core richness, minerality, and flavors of honey and spice, while Grenache Blanc adds green apple and anise flavors, a lush mouthfeel and bright acids. Picpoul Blanc contributes tropical brightness and salinity.  The 2017 vintage is the first to incorporate Picardan and Clairette Blanche grapes.  The former brings elegance while the latter is crisp and citrusy.  The percentages break down this way: 68% Roussanne, 17% Grenache Blanc, 7% Picpoul Blanc, 4% Picardan and 4% Clairette Blanche.

The winery says Esprit de Blanc combines "the richness and structure of Roussanne, the green fruit of Grenache Blanc, the citrusy lift of Picpoul Blanc and the floral minerality of Picardin and Clairette Blanche."  All the wine's components experienced full malolactic fermentation for a rich and creamy mouthfeel.

The grapes for Esprit were whole-cluster pressed, with the Roussanne fermenting in oak barrels.  The other grapes were fermented in mostly stainless steel tanks, with a little neutral wood.  The blend was put back into oak for eight months aging, and it rested another nine months in the bottle.  Alcohol hits only 13% abv and the wine sells on the Tablas website for $45.

Tablas Creek recommends pairing the wine with carrot, leek and potato soup, fish with fennel or grilled scallops.

This wine has a nose full of lemons, limes and that good Paso Robles minerality.  There is a nutty angle that plays in, too, but not as strongly as I anticipated given the presence of Roussanne.  The palate is tasty and ripe, with citrus taking the lead ahead of those minerals and a floral element showing late.  It's a great white wine for winter - full, with a touch of warming oak.  Pair it with root vegetable dishes or any kind of fish.


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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Another Great Wine From Bonny Doon Vineyards

Randall Grahm uses his Bonny Doon Vineyards as a pulpit from which to preach, proselytize and promote about grapes that are off the beaten path, growing on underappreciated vines located somewhere "right doon there."  The 2018 Beeswax Vineyard Picpoul grapes are included in that group.

More closely aligned with southern France's Languedoc region, the Picpoul Blanc grape has taken root in California's Monterey and Sonoma counties, as well as in places like Texas, Arizona and Washington state.

The grape's name has been said to mean "lip stinger" in French, a nod to its high acidity.  However, a blogger named Miquel Hudin picked a bone online about that translation.  The grapes in this wine were picked in the Beeswax Vineyard, in the Arroyo Seco AVA of Monterey County.  Grahm says his grapes are slightly riper, less austere, and more aromatically developed than the French fruit.

Skurnik Wines writes that although it's impossible to smell the sensation of saltiness, the nose of the Bonny Doon Picpoul is "maritime, coupled with a discreet suggestion of peaches, wildflowers and the (we really can’t help it, but it's in there) ubiquitous fragrance of beeswax.  This wine is utterly brilliant with the briniest oysters you can find or Dungeness crab."  Savory salinity is a calling card in many of Grahm's wines.

There's some pretty cool label art on the bottle, done by Wendy Cook.  Alcohol is remarkably restrained at 1% abv and the wine retails for $16.

This Randall Grahm wine gives a pale straw color in the glass.  It smells like apricot and key lime, with minerals and salinity battling for attention.  The palate brings citrus and apples to a savory backbone structured with earth and acidity.  Oysters, crabs and calamari go well with it, but I've always liked the Picpoul grape with a ham and cheese sandwich. 


Friday, April 19, 2019

Rosés For Spring: Vin Gris De Cigare

Hey, is it rosé season already?  Maybe it creeps up on me because it's always rosé season at my place.  We are taking a couple of weeks to spotlight some worthy pink wines which will help get us in the swing for spring.

Bonny Doon, the Santa Cruz-based winery that's on a self-described "adventure to make naturally soulful, distinctive, and original wine," is heading into spring with another vintage of its beautiful rosé.  Randall Grahm calls his Vin Gris de Cigare the "pink analogue of  Le Cigare Volant," the flagship wine of the Dooniverse.

The 2018 vintage, maybe the 35th or so, is made from 38.5% Grenache grapes, 30.5% Grenache Blanc, 12.5% Carignane, 10% Cinsaut, 6% Mourvèdre, 2% Picpoul and a dash of  Vermentino.  For me, it's a rite of spring, and a rite I would love to have on Thanksgiving, too, if I could hold off that long on opening the bottle.  Grahm says the pink wine will improve in the screw-top bottle for several years, by the way.  He sorts the grapes this way:

"The Grenache for our Vin Gris came in large part from bespoke sections of the Alta Loma Vineyard, a cool climate site in the Arroyo Seco region of Monterey County that gives us grapes with a distinctive black currant character.  The Carignane, responsible for the fundament of the wine, derived from very old vines from Antioch in Contra Costa County.  A substantial percentage of the wine is composed of the elegant Grenache Blanc variety, adding a lovely richness and foundation to the '18 vintage.  The Cinsaut,... ah, a delicate cherry top note."  He also notes that the lees were stirred to give a creamy mouthfeel.

The '18 Vin Gris de Cigare is very pale pink in the glass, quite lovely in fact.  The nose shows red fruit and a light floral note with a savory mineral edge.  The palate displays cherries and apples, with a very light and creamy mouthfeel, yet with a wonderful acidity.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

More White Wine For The Money: Le Cigare Blanc Réserve

The 2013 Réserve is the same wine as the 2013 Le Cigare Blanc "normale," but it is aged in five-gallon glass demijohns. The aging occurs while the wine is still in contact with the spent yeast cells, which lends weight and texture to the finished product. Winemaker Randall Grahm writes that the wine has a "very different textural aspect from the normale, with an extreme level of umami, or savoriness from the absorption of the lees."

It's still 57% Grenache Blanc, 27% Roussanne and 16% Picpoul from Beeswax Vineyard in Monterey County. It was stirred monthly while aging and was bottled unfiltered. Only 275 cases were made, and it sells for $45.

The wine is a lovely and rich greenish gold, much the same as the "normale," but maybe a little more vibrant. Aromas are predictably savory - beeswax, lanolin, minerals, citrus - and flavors walk that same path. The tropical fruit hits hard, with that Roussanne nuttiness right behind. The earthy, almost soapy, note stays long after the sip while acidity holds a high threshold. You could spend $45 on a Chardonnay very easily, but this wine gives you something much more interesting for your investment.


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Monday, November 7, 2016

Wine Your Own Beeswax

The wines of Bonny Doon Vineyards are all about complexity. They are all about savory. Sometimes, they’re all about beeswax.

The 2013 Le Cigare Blanc is composed of 57% Grenache Blanc grapes, 27% Roussanne and 16% Picpoul Blanc. Those Rhônish varieties are grown with organic care in the Beeswax Vineyard of Monterey County's Arroyo Seco appellation. Three varieties, a single vineyard.

Bonny Doon chief Randall Grahm says the '13 vintage of the pale analog of his amazing Le Cigare Volant is richer than the "lean, taut '11" but has the hallmark complexity we've come to expect in his wines. It rides in at 14.5% abv and retails for $28. Grahm made 1,757 cases

The wine is a pale, greenish-gold in the glass. It smells, notably, of beeswax - not surprising given that the grapes were grown in the namesake vineyard. A light lanolin creeps over with a bit of yellow melon and a chalk minerality. The nose is elegant, not forceful. On the palate, its savory aspect is apparent, with waxy and nutty flavors presiding over the citrus and minerals. The mouthfeel is full and the acidity is just enough. Year after year, it’s one of the best white wines I taste.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Have A Cigare - A White One

One of the wonders of tasting Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon wines from year to year is tracking how they turn out. Bigger wineries, with huge production in the tens of thousands of cases don’t see much change in their wines from vintage to vintage. They are made that way - reliable, unsurprising. Because nobody likes a surprise, right? We know that’s not true.

One of the Bonny Doon wines that shows so well from year to year is Le Cigare Blanc Réserve. This is the one aged in five gallon glass carboys - on the lees - which gives the wine a complexity you won’t find on the shelf at the supermarket. Grahm only made 275 cases of the 2013 vintage, so don’t expect it to be around forever.

Grahm notes that 2013 is the fourth vintage of Le Cigare Blanc Réserve, and it is a release that I look forward to each year with more fervor than, say, Christmas, or the beginning of baseball season.

Le Cigare Blanc Réserve is patterned after white Burgundy wines, even though this wine would seem to be more aligned with the Rhône Valley. The blend of 55% Roussanne, 26% Grenache Blanc and 19% Picpoul from the Arroyo Seco area certainly does not suggest Burgundy, but a taste might make you think otherwise.

As Grahm states, “One finds in the Cigare Blanc Réserve many of the qualities that one has come to love in white Burgundy - a lush, creamy texture, a haunting suggestion of the skin of pear (or is it quince?), as well as absolutely formidable length on the palate.” One would think it’s quince, but one would have to check with one's wife - she has a much better palate.

It’s the lees - the spent yeast cells - that really bring on the Burgundian feel. The wine’s contact with the lees, as Grahm notes, “contributes both to a textural richness ...and the slight reductive funkiness ... contributing to the distinctive toasty, hazelnut nose, as well as to a sort of energized zinginess, a kind of recharging of the wine’s battery, as it were.” Rich AND zingy in a white wine is a rare find, and a pleasant one.

The glass-aged wine carries an alcohol level of 14.1% abv and retails for $45. Grahm says you can expect it to age well for another eight to twelve years.

The pale yellow Cigare Blanc Reserve 2013 brings a savory nose, with a bit of apricot and peach fruit aromas to pair with the saline minerality. That salinity appears on the palate, too. The savory, salty quality is a Randall Grahm calling card, and it appears here in spades. Citrus flavors - lemon, lime, orange peel - make appearances on the palate that last into the finish. Acidity is high and refreshing.

Pairing suggestions will range from nuts to cheese to lobster. The simple tastes go great with it, but at is more than elegant enough for the fancy table, too. Grahm suggests “wild mushrooms sauteed in butter with a dash of coarse sea salt, monkfish stuffed with chorizo, and quiche with fresh leeks.” I will have to find a way to get invited to his place for dinner.


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Monday, May 11, 2015

Lodi Wine: Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc

The name Acquiesce means "To surrender, to become quiet." At the winery, they say, "we acquiesce to the grapes,,, and to nature." Acquiesce Vineyards is Lodi's only winery dedicated completely to white wines.

The Acquiesce 2014 Picpoul Blanc is whole-cluster pressed, 100% Picpoul Blanc from the Lodi Mokelumne River AVA. Alcohol hits a very reasonable 12.5% abv. There were only 98 cases made, so don't drag your cursor ordering this one. It is estate grown, produced and bottled and retails for just $24. They only have 100 vines bearing this grape, which are Tablas Creek cuttings from the French Châteauneuf-du-Pape region. The high-acidity grape makes for a very food-friendly wine.

I wondered aloud on Twitter about how much Picpoul Blanc is grown in California.  @Luscious_Lushes replied, "not a lot. But I know Tablas, Twisted Oak and a couple of others that make single variety Picpoul." @Dracaenawines commented, "we are aware of a small vineyard in #pasorobles." @camron94 replied, "There's not much! Only about 42 tons of #PicpoulBlanc crushed last year in #California."

After we got past that, @dvinewinetime said, "OMG the @AcquiesceWine Picpoul Blanc '14 is AMAZING! Like drinking a glass of flowers. Beautiful." On the cheese pairing with the wine. @wineandgoodfood tweeted, "Cypress Grove Midnight Moon is creamy & mild...great pairing with the Picpoul Blanc." @Lodi_Wine said, "@AcquiesceWine is one of the newest members to the #LodiRules program. Let's give her some love!" That was in reference to Susan Tipton, the owner and winemaker at Aquiesce Vineyards.

This pale wine has such great minerality that the sensation of rocks in a stream is impossible to ignore. The aromas of wet stones are met toe to toe by orange peel and lemon zest. On the palate things get just as stony. Citrus flavors - the taste version of "wet rocks," - are in the forefront, the mid-palate and the finish. The acidity is dynamic and makes the wine perfect for food pairing. The Acquiesce website says to pair it with Thai dishes, cilantro, tuna, ceviche and salads. All of those recommendations are good. And sipping by the pool is also highly recommended.


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Friday, March 27, 2015

Bonny Doon Minds Its Own Beeswax

Le Cigare Blanc is the white counterpart to the always awesome Le Cigare Volant red blend, named for the alien spacecraft "banned by decree of the village council of Châteauneuf-du-Pape." The flying cigars may not be allowed to land in France, but they land in my place a lot. They are welcome visitors from another appellation far, far away. Well, just a bit north of me, anyway.

The 2013 Le Cigare Blanc, "Beeswax Vineyard," is a combination of 55% Roussanne grapes, 26% Grenache Blanc and 19% Picpoul grapes from Monterey County's Beeswax Vineyard. Roussanne and Grenache Blanc get around a bit in California, but I'd love to hear of another Cali wine sporting Picpoul.

Bonny Doon Vineyard winemaker Randall Grahm states, "We've made a very slight label change with this vintage. An echo of the mineral character that we were able to express in the wonderful '11, but perhaps a tad richer on the palate." Minerals are good, richer is good. I'm looking forward to sipping. The wine hits 14.5% abv on the alcohol scale and sells for $28 per bottle. 1965 cases were produced, and if there are any left at this time it's an oenological crime.

The '13 Le Cigare Blanc shows in the glass just slightly richer than pale gold. Aromas of quince and peach are smacked with a delightful salinity - not quite the smell of salt water, but pretty close to it. There's a note of candle wax in there, too. The palate is exquisite, with lovely white fruit flavors and a decent acidity which is tempered by the wine's mellow mouthfeel. Traces of a floral sense melt into a slightly saline feel on the finish.

It fits so well with a pasta salad featuring mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes and capers that it seems incredible to think that the wine wasn't made with that dish in mind.


Monday, May 16, 2011

LONE MADRONE, PASO ROBLES


Lone Madrone

Several years ago at the Ojai Wine Festival I tasted a white blend by Paso Robles producer Lone Madrone that I fell in love with.  It's called La Mezcla.  The notes of bananas and tropical fruit on the nose, the citrus and minerals on the palate and the zesty acidity made this mix of Grenache Blanc and Albariño an instant favorite of mine.

Lone Madrone's owner and winemaker Neil Collins may be known to you as the Tablas Creek winemaker.  Lone Madrone is his personal label.

As long as I was in Paso, I figured I'd better stop in to the tasting room and see what else Collins had to offer.

Lone Madrone's Points West White 2008 has a funky nose and fabulous acidity.  A full-feeling wine, it's a blend of Roussanne, Viognier and Picpoul Blanc which displays pears, peaches and a sense of wet rocks on the palate.  The '07 Sweet Cheeks is an amazing wine. the grapes are handled in Vin de Paille style, where they are set out on straw in the biodynamic vineyard for a few days after harvest.  It has a beautiful, full mouthfeel bursting with apricot nectar.

A dry rosé, the 2010 Zin Blanco is all Zinfandel, showing earthy strawberries for summer.  The'09 La Mexcla Roja is great for warm weather, too.  It's a bright red wine with a slight effervescence and plenty of earthy minerals.  Serve this blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Counoise, Nebbiolo and Zinfandel chilled.

Points West Red 2007 is made of Syrah and Mourvèdre.  It has a briar-laced strawberry nose and big red fruit on the palate with a touch of vanilla spice.  Barfandel is not a new grape - or a stomach disorder - it's Lone Madrone's blend of Barbera and Zinfandel.  White pepper in the bouquet is joined by spicy, brambly red fruit on tha palate.