J Wilkes Pinot Blanc 2016
Pure and focused with tangerine flesh, peach skin, subtle white flowers / citrus blossom, saline, chalk and granite. Focused and nervey from the oldest Pinot Blanc vines (and a few Melon de Bourgogne) in California, with a touch more structure / acid / verve than previous vintages. Bright and dry with wonderful stone-fruit persistence, mouth-cleansing freshness. Fantastic either as a cocktail wine, Summer Sipper, wine for the lake or the ocean (boating), or with all the food listed below! I can’t neglect to mention cold water oysters, and for Pinot Blanc I think of Hog Island Sweetwaters, Morro Bays, or anything from good Northwestern or Northeastern oceans. Also fantastic with beets and goat cheese, salami & cheese plates, Kansas City or St Louis style BBQ. Also makes an amazing popsicle to cleanse palates between courses.
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 born out of a mutation of pink-skinned Pinot gris (which was born out of a mutation of Pinot noir) and is perhaps most associated with the Alsace region of France. The variety is also is quite successful in Germany and Austria, where it is known as Weissburgunder. Although its heritage is Burgundian, today it is rarely found there and instead thrives throughout central Europe, especially in the mountainous Alto Adige region of Italy, where it is called Pinot bianco. Fine examples can also be found in Switzerland, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Oregon’s Willamette Valley boasts some wonderful examples of Pinot blanc, as do some cooler pockets of California.
In the Glass
Pinot Blanc is typically a full-bodied wine and expresses pleasing aromas of crisp pear, peach, lemon zest, crushed gravel and white flowers. The finest examples can possess a stony minerality and with age can develop intriguing notes of honey, vanilla and almond.
Delicate Pinot Blanc works well with lighter fare such as salads, seafood, chicken or turkey, but is truly at its best with Alsatian pairings like choucrout garnie, onion tarts or the region’s soft cheeses like Munster.
Pinot Blanc’s delicate aromatics, full body, and moderate acidity make it a great alternative to the world’s most popular white wine. Anyone experiencing Chardonnay fatigue and looking to try something new would benefit from giving Pinot blanc a try.