By both volume and reputation, California is by far the most important wine-producing state of the union. We might think mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and places like Napa and Sonoma, but California is a diverse and endlessly fascinating wine growing region, and we're featuring some spectacularly interesting wines, as well as one uber-classic Cab (but not from Napa).
Purity Wines Joshua's Starry Night Vineyard Viognier 2018
From young vines (18 years old) planted at 1600' in Calaveras County comes one of America's most intriguing examples of Viognier. A temperamental and enigmatic cultivar, variously adored and stigmatized, Viognier is somewhat rare, but mid-20th century it was nearly extinct, with only small plantings left in its homeland, Condrieu, in the Northern Rhone. It is one of the world's most aromatic grapes; one can expect myriad notes of fruit, especially apricots, peaches and other stone fruits, ripe citrus and tropical fruits as well, certainly flowers, and often spicy and honeyed tones. Viognier can get quite rich on the palate, with many examples exhibiting significant weight and viscosity, and an oily textural quality. Purity Wines makes an especially light and fresh Viognier, yet the wine still has a mysterious and complex side that speaks to the cultivar's typical profile. Of particular note is the fact that this wine is made without an additions: ambient yeast did the fermenting and no sulfites were added at any point in the winemaking processes. It will be fun to work with this wine at the table, but mildly spicy seafood dishes come to mind, crab cakes in particular.
Birichino Vin Gris 2018
Do we love any California winery more than Birichino? I just don't know. These guys absolutely RULE. They call their pink wine a 'Vin Gris', or 'grey wine', for its pale color. It is a classic Provencal blend of 79% grenache, 9% cinsault, 7% rolle (aka vermentino) and 5% mourvedre. Aromas and flavors of fresh crunchy fruits combine with subtle herbal and floral notes before the finish turns tart and crisp, and certainly dry. This stuff is magnificent and will be great with so many dishes, though a salad of watermelon, feta and mint sounds perfect.
Birichino Besson Vineyard Grenache 2017
Year in and year out, this is one of our favorite California wines. What is perhaps most remarkable about this wine is its extraordinary elegance. The 2017 vintage clocks in at a mere 13.5% alcohol, which, in general, is not especially low, but when it comes to warm-climate fully ripe and juicy Grenache, it is quite out of the ordinary. This is possible because the Besson Vineyard is populated by Grenache vines planted on their own roots (not grafted to American rootstocks) in 1910. Old vines, especially very old vines (and 100+ years could be considered very very old), are self-regulating, typically ripening at the same time every year, producing small amounts of fully-ripe, concentrated and balanced fruit at lower levels of potential alcohol (read: less sugar). Anyway, this wine should be an icon in the American wine industry, but it remains under the radar. Don't miss your taste tomorrow.
Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Can we just say "If you know, you know"?