I recently wrote a story on the history of BARRA of Mendocino. The winery also has two other labels, one of them being Girasole Vineyards. All their wine are California Certified Organically Farmed (CCOF) and have been for 20 years. Even before certification, Charlie Barra had been doing this twenty plus years before “being certified”. You can read the history, the vision, the family and vineyards at:
History of Pinot Blanc
So what is Pinot Blanc? The history of this grape is a bit tangled with mystery and misunderstanding. This white wine grape is essentially a mutation but sharing mostly the same DNA with Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Pinot Blanc has wide ranging descriptors: high in acidity, low in acidity, mix of fresh fruits, aromas (apple, citrus), pear, a little buttery, a bit creamy, hint of spiciness, dry, floral characteristics, honey, sweet, possessing stone fruit aromas, heavier minerality, cabbage odor, etc.
Where is it grown? The main areas for this variety are Alsace (northeast France), the Alto Adige region in Italy and neighboring areas of Alsace in Germany & Austria. Pinot Blanc is also taking a hold in Canada’s Okanagan Valley as one of their signature wines. Other areas include Hungary, Croatia, Spain, Washington, California and Oregon. In France it is permissible to blend this varietal with other grapes in some quantities.
What other names does it go by? Warning: the list is a minefield for possible mispronunciations: Austria (Weissburgunder or Klevner), Hungary (Feher Burgundi); Spain & Italy (Pinot bianco), Czech Republic (Rulandske Bile), Slovakia (Rulandske Biele) and Argentina. In the Champagne region, Pinot Blanc is often called Blanc Vrai. In the United States, besides Pinot Blanc, it is often referred to as a white ABC (anything but Chardonnay) or a stepchild to Chardonnay. The truth of this varietal is very different!
The number of acres planted of Pinot Blanc are a bit of a mystery but estimated around 300 to 400 acres statewide in California. Upon previously tasting various Pinot Blanc’s, I was more than impressed with the aromas, flavors, textures and tastes of this varietal. What stood out was this wine was significantly different from France to California. Admittedly, I have not tasted this varietal in all the previous countries mentioned earlier. In France Pinot Blanc can actually add Auxerrois (from the town in Chablis region) but still labeled as Pinot Blanc. Auxerrois often has a “green vegetable quality” to it. When I first tasted it, I was so “un-impressed” by the taste. Turns out it often has a cabbage tinge. What are the differences between California and French Pinot Blanc? Apart from “terroir”, as mentioned the French often blend in Auxerrois and it has a distinct “green vegetable” on the palate. When I had a Sonoma Valley, Pinot Blanc I was taken back with a soft “cotton candy sweetness” verses “cabbage” on the palate and finish.
2020 Girasole Pinot Blanc
First on the eyes you are greeted with a bright pale golden hue for color and a medium-heavy viscosity. On the nose honeysuckle, green apples, and orange blossom greet the senses. Secondary aromas of a soft sweet vegetable characteristic of snow peas and a hint of citrus are present. On the palate, tastes of a slight gritty earthiness, intense floral, coupled with pineapple and guava provide a rich a flavorful experience. The finish was full and multi-layered especially as it went from chilled to warming up but always smooth and mid-lasting. This wine recently was rated at 96 points and won a Double Gold Medal at the Sunset Magazine Wine Competition. The grapes were harvested from their Redwood Valley Vineyards in Mendocino and then “cold aged in stainless steel at 40 degrees to retain freshness and fruit character”. This is now on my list for summertime enjoyment as a wine of balance and place. It is 100% Pinot Blanc, vegan friendly and goes for only $15/bottle!! I know this wine will make my yearly Best Wines Tasted (comes out annually mid-December).
The Food and Wine Pairing
What foods pair well with California Pinot Blanc? Almost anything with subtle flavoring, so soft cheese (goat or sheep), salads with cheese dressings, or mild fish to taste this “more delicate varietal”. Conversely, if you want to highlight the meal and want a complimentary wine, you can serve California Pinot Blanc’s with Salmon, shrimp, scallops, far eastern chicken dishes, pizza, sushi & sashimi and even cured Italian prosciutto. This evening had a fresh trout sauteed in a mixture of a trace of wasabi, minced garlic, sea salt, pepper, garlic salt, Chardonnay, butter and olive oil. A Mediterranean salad and roasted asparagus rounded the meal.
The quintessential take away is that California Pinot Blanc possess wide ranging characteristics and flavors. It is much more than your “ABC” wine and will provide you a new adventure and a great addition to your everyday whites. The 2020 Girasole Pinot Blanc was a real treat.