I have been trying my darnedest to plow through some samples this month as I know that more are definitely on the way. As such, I found these whites made from varieties that one does not see all that often, at least in the U.S.
2015 Acquiesce Belle Blanc, Lodi, CA: Retail $26. 60% Grenache Blanc, 30% Roussanne, 10% Viognier. OK, one could argue that the three varieties in this blend are not all that obscure since they are common in the Rhone Valley in France and can be found in a few places in California and Washington. But. I was trying to be diligent and get to wines in my sample rack that have been there for, well, a while. There is absolutely no good reason that I have not tried this wine before now, but I am happy that I did. Sue Tipton, the woman extraordinaire at the helm of Acquiesce is a talented and daring winemaker: she only produces white wines (and one rosé) made from grapes that are often difficult for an American to pronounce, and they come from a region that is (whether rightly or wrongly) known for juicy red wines, most notably Zinfandel. I am happy that I waited because this wine is simply delicious and it shows that well-made white wines don’t have to be consumed upon release despite what seems to be popular opinion. [As an aside, I have included Acquiesce rosés in my annual tasting the last two years, and those age well, too!] I also set aside the name: it needs to be either “Belle Blanche” or “Beau Blanc” but I digress. Floral and tropical on nose (the Viognier, despite only 10% of the blend, really comes through), with a splash of white pepper. The palate is initially round and lush, but a good dose of tartness comes in on the mid-palate, with a spicy, and lengthy finish. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
OK, at this point in the review it is important to point out a particular variety: Kerner. I could have done some research to legitimize what I am about to say, but I am currently knee-deep in a bottle of champagne, so, well, no research. I dare say that Kerner, at least among wine geeks and professionals garners much more attention than other hybrid grapes. Why? I am not sure other than every single Kerner I have ever tried has been completely baller (a term that I think I learned from my teenage son) since it is high in acidity as well as flavor. Kerner almost inherently gets a Whoa.
If you are new to the game, or have not really had much exposure to wines from Lodi, there is a bunch of crazy stuff going on there. And by crazy, I mean cool. At least to wine geeks. Much of that craziness is centered around the Mokelumne Glen Vineyards, which has an insane number of varieties planted, most of them either obscure, from Germany, or both. Kerner, for example is a cross between Riesling and Trollinger (a variety about which I know next to nothing). As far as I know, it only exists in Germany, a couple of vineyards in Austria, and Mokelumne Glen in Lodi. Yeah, crazy. And I did not even get into Bacchus….
2012 Borra Vineyards Intuition Field Blend White, Lodi, CA: Retail $22. I received this bottle from Markus Niggli whom I met on my first-ever press trip, which was to Lodi, California, was the winemaker for Borra (I say “was” because I am pretty sure the fine folks at Borra have retired). He sent it to me to show how these varieties can age. He wrote on the bottle that this was the same blend as his 2012 Nimmo, which is a unique mélange of 60% Kerner, 20 % Riesling, and 20% Gewürztraminer. Still a pale straw in the glass with a decided German Riesling nose of citrus, white peach, and petrol. The palate is decidedly fresh and tart—one would be hard pressed to identify this as a 6-7 year old white, particularly since the acidity, the fruit, and the finish are all incredible. Whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2016 Markus Nimmo, Lodi, CA: Retail $24. 64% Kerner, 16% Riesling, 15% Gewürztraminer, 5% Bacchus. Markus Niggli was one of the first people I met once I started this crazy wine blog thing and I had a bit of a man crush. Nimmo is Markus’ premier white blend and every bottle I have tried thus far has been stellar. This is not an exception. Tart on the nose with grapefruit and white peach. The palate is tart as well with bright lemon and a decided minerality. Holy cow, this is good. Excellent to Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2017 Sidebar Kerner, Mokelumne River, Lodi, CA: Retail $25. David Ramey of, well, Ramey fame, is one of the few (including Markus Niggli, above) that gets any of the Mokelumne Glen Kerner. Good thing. A half a shade darker than the Markus, perhaps, with aromas of wet rock, lemon rind, touches of white pepper, and yes, funk (but in an oh, soooo good way), the nose is particularly savory, almost meaty, even though it is a white. Both tart and luscious, with a rich mouthfeel and biting acidity, this is a marvel. The wet rock is also there, as is a lingering finish with all sorts of goodness. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
The last wine is less exotic (perhaps), less sexy (perhaps), but no less tasty….
2016 Scheid Vineyards Grüner Veltliner Riverview Vineyard, Monterey, CA: Retail $25. While some might not consider Grüner all that rare (it is by far the most widely planted white grape in Austria), it is rather rare in the U.S. (although certainly gaining some steam). This is an estate Grüner, grown by Scheid for Scheid, and if this wine is any indication, it has taken very well to the Riverview Vineyard soil. Luscious and tropical on the nose with additional aromas of white peach and melon. The palate initially was a bit too round and fleshy, but with some time, it mellowed and the tartness came through, particularly on the mid-palate and finish. Still, this is a voluptuous wine, particularly for Grüner, which can be austere and a bit rigid in its native country. Kind of like Austrians. Wait, did I just say that? Excellent. 91-93 Points.