Showing posts with label Rhone Valley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rhone Valley. Show all posts

Friday, April 1, 2022

Lip Stinging Picpoul From California's Central Coast

The imaginary Bonny Doon timeline stretches from a 1954 decree in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which banned aliens from landing their flying cigars in vineyards, to 1986 when Bonny Doon Vineyard released their Le Cigare Volant wine, and on to today when the stripped-down Dooniverse includes a wine made with the Picpoul grape.  

It was Randall Grahm's decision to move from trying to make Burgundian wines in sunny California to giving the Rhône a go.  It worked.  His little winery that could, did.  He became the Rhône Ranger.  The winery became huge, he became disillusioned and sold off parts of it over the past couple of decades.  

His mood can lift, though, with the release of a fantastic expression of Picpoul, which means "lip stinger" en Francais.  It is a much-loved grape in the south of France, carrying a brisk acidity, dancing light on its feet and providing an ultra savory accompaniment to food, according to Grahm.

More closely aligned with 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.  

Bonny Doon's 2021 Picpoul is 90% Picpoul and 10% Grenache Blanc, mostly from the Beeswax Vineyard in Arroyo Seco with support from the Nolan Vineyard in Santa Barbara County.

Grahm says the Beeswax Vineyard produces white grapes which have the scent of "well… beeswax," white flowers and pineapple.  He credits the wine's "bracing acidity," savoriness and a bit of brininess for its easy pairing with crabs, lobster, oysters and the like.  Alcohol is a minimalist 11% abv.

Wendy Cook drew the label art, which shows the French pronunciation of the grape's name and a visual description of the way it translates.

This white wine is bright, savory and full of acidity - ready for pairing with your favorite seafood.  The winemaker speaks of its brininess, which I get as a bit of seashore, much as in Vermentino.  There is a floral aspect, but the primary focus is on minerals and salinity.  It is a fantastic white, perfect for the coming warmer months and just as good until then.   


In addition to the wine, I received a cardboard standup of the Bonny Doon alien, who may have touched down in the Beeswax Vineyard, since there is no decree banning the practice in California.  It now lives at my home until the property management suits come nosing around.


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Friday, January 31, 2020

White Wines For Winter: Côtes du Rhône Blanc

White wines are not just for summers and salads.  There are rich, full-bodied whites which are bold and warming.  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. 

Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve 2018

The Perrin family heads up a French winemaking company which includes the noted Château de Beaucastel of the Rhône Valley.  The grapes for this wine were picked from vines growing between the Ouvèze and Aigues rivers.  Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier fruit was vinified in stainless steel - no oak at all - to an alcohol level of 13% abv and it retails for about $12.

This white Rhône blend shows the Viognier best, all floral and citrusy.  The tart apple notes of the Grenache Blanc play off of the savory aspect of the Roussanne and Marsanne.  The palate is mineral-laden, with citrus, peach and pear appearing.  Nice acidity, too.  These are some great grapes, and they do not disappoint.