If there’s anything we know about Chardonnay, it’s that it is highly adaptable to its environment. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Oregon—heck even Canada—all have areas that produce premium Chardonnays. Yet all are so distinctly different, all so uniquely dependent on both environmental (soil, climate, altitude and latitude) and human factors (grape grower, winemaker).
In California, Chardonnay is our most-planted white wine grape variety. It’s produced all over the state and, given the size of the state and the amount of wine producers, it can be expressed in a number of different styles. Today I’m zeroing in on three specific AVAs: Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, and Dry Creek Valley—all part of the Northern Sonoma AVA in Sonoma County, Calif.
Last year, I was able to tasted the 2015 vintage of this very wine. This year, I’ve been able to reconnect with Emeritus, attending their bi-monthly webinar series, specifically catered to wine professionals. President Mari Jones, along with vineyard manager Kirk Lokka and winemaker David Lattin deep dive into how and why soil, climate, and clones, along with viticultural management practices, all effect the resulting wine.
So while I obviously enjoyed the Pinot Hill Pinot Noir last year, and even had a personal kind of geek-out on their vineyard location, this year I have a whole new level of appreciation. Education, man. It does something to you…
I also want to note that I enjoyed this wine as part of my date-night-in anniversary dinner. We paired the wine with a dish we simply call “Forbes.” The close-up picture of this dish is below the wine review. PM me if you want to know what it is 😉
Let’s talk about orange wines for a second. Orange wines are wines made from white wine grapes through a similar process as red wines are typically made. Instead of immediately pressing the white grapes to separate skin from juices, thereby making a white wine, the skins are left on during the fermentation process and, often, for a bit of post-fermentation maceration (ie: additional skin contact time). It’s the oxidative effect—oxygen’s influence on the grape skin compounds—that turn the wine it’s notable orange-y color. Resulting wines are typically dry with notes of phenolic bitterness and a slight tannic texture. Flavors will vary depending on the grape variety, but usually include tertiary, maturing notes of honey, nuts, and even dried fruits.
Like any other wine type, no two orange wines are quite the same. Of course grape variety will play a large role, but the time and attention of the winemaker is critical. Too much oxygen exposure equals spoiled wine and/or funky flavors. Too little and you don’t get the desired affect—visually or on the palate. I’ve had some funky (read: unpleasant) orange wines. I’ve had orange wines that barely touched the outer spectrum of what it means to be orange (thus quite lacking in aroma and flavor).
Today I bring you Passaggio Wines skin fermented Pinot Grigio. It’s a fun and perfectly delicious example of the winemaking process.
This has become a Briscoe staple. And, unfortunately, sometimes staples go overlooked. This shouldn’t be the case: if there’s something that’s taken up permanent residence in the cellar (or closet as it were at the moment, thank you COVID for taking away my construction workers…), then it’s certainly something worth talking about. So cheers to an everday wine I could probably drink, well, everyday.