J Wilkes Pinot Blanc 2014
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
After a long and rewarding career as a salesman, grape grower and ambassador for Santa Maria and Paso Robles wine, Jeff Wilkes decided to try his hand at winemaking.
He went to his long-time employer and friend, Steve Miller, with a proposal to create wines that focused on California’s Central Coast, through the lens of two of its sub-AVA’s, Santa Maria and Paso Robles Highlands.
Jeff launched his namesake label in 2001 and immediately received critical acclaim. He continued on that path until his untimely passing in 2010. Inspired by Jeff’s vision and moved by their friendship, the Miller family decided to continue the J. Wilkes label as a tribute to Jeff’s passion.
A lesser-known but elite AVA within the larger Santa Barbara district, the Santa Maria Valley AVA runs precisely west to east starting near the coast. The valley funnels cool, Pacific Ocean air to the vineyards more inland, allowing grapes a longer hang time to ripen evenly and achieve their full potential by harvest time. Combined with minimal rainfall, consistent warm sunshine, and well-drained soils, it is an ideal environment for grape growing.
Many of the wineries here are small and highly respected, having established a reputation in the 1970s and 80s for producing excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. More recently, Syrah has also proven quite successful in the region. Many vineyards are owned by growers who sell their grapes to other wineries, so it is common to see the same vineyard name on bottlings from different wineries. Bien Nacido Vineyard is perhaps the best-known and most prestigious.
Approachable, aromatic and pleasantly plush on the palate, Pinot Blanc is a white grape variety most associated with the Alsace region of France. Although its heritage is Burgundian, today it is rarely found there and instead thrives throughout central Europe, namely Germany and Austria, where it is known as Weissburgunder and Alto Adige where it is called Pinot Bianco. Interestingly, Pinot Blanc was born out of a mutation of the pink-skinned Pinot Gris. Somm Secret—Chardonnay fans looking to try something new would benefit from giving Pinot Blanc a try.