Hands up, who wants to forget all about 2020? Well one way to do that is to skip that vintage year, (that’s probably not going to happen) but much wine doesn’t hit the market until over a year after the fruit is picked. So, we won’t be seeing 2020 on a bottle for quite some time. Also, important to note that a vintage year only needs to have 95% of the fruit from that year to qualify, so what that means practically, is that here come the (mostly) 2019 wines!
2019 was an especially smokey year in Napa due to the wildfires (remember those?), so it remains to be seen how much that significant environmental event will affect the big name blockbuster wines from that area (cabernet sauvignon usually sits in oak barrels longer than most white wines, and chardonnay, although white, can also see substantial aging). Beginning sometime later this year we will begin to see how that all works out. But in the meantime, the lighter “Springier” white wines are getting released, and those, especially from areas unaffected by the smoke, appear to be delicious. Which is good news. And more good news is that the alcohol content in many of these wines is falling, as is their pricing. And since alcohol is directly related to caloric content, and money is money, this might just be the best swimsuit season ever.
Let us hope!
2019 Brooks Note pinot blanc, Mendocino, $24
Winemaker Garry Brooks might be best known for his stellar Marin County pinot noir, but he is equally adept at another pinot, pinot blanc. Sourced from Mendocino and vinified at the Trek Winery in Novato, his 2019 pinot blanc is everything California chardonnay is typically not. Cold fermentation in stainless steel and no malolactic fermentation yields true grape flavor: tart, tropical and citrusy. And at 13.3% ABV you won’t feel like you’ve been clubbed over the head after two glasses. This is the kind of wine that the French think go great with oysters (and most everything else too). And you know what? They are right. Brooks Note Winery
2019 Marimar Estate Don Miguel “Acero” chardonnay, Green Valley, $34
Sausalitan Marimar Torres has now released a rosé and a sparkling wine, in addition to her better known chardonnays and pinot noirs. Known for her more “European style” winemaking (less oak, more grape expression) her “Acero” stands out uniquely from the rest, and even her own. Sourced from her Don Miguel vineyard in Green Valley this wine is 100 percent cold fermented in stainless steel (hence the “acero” or “steel”) but also sees 100 percent malolactic fermentation. The result is a bright, creamy mineral mouthful of wet slate. It is not your typical California chardonnay, nor is it a typical French Chablis, but man is it good: easy drinking, low alcohol (13.8%) and food friendly. Marimar Estate.
2019 Brainchild, Vermentino, Napa, $24
The 2018 Brainchild white wine was a Lodi sourced blend of stainless steel fermented vermentino propped up with a touch of flowery Malvasia Bianca. It was the “brainchild” of Marin winemaker Patrick McNeil and its tiny production (300 cases) went quickly. Now fast forward to 2019, and the new Brainchild is now a 100 percent Napa sourced vermentino. Steely dry and high acidity are to be expected in bunches (vermentino is known for its even ripening), while no malolactic fermentation ensures a bracing minerality. Due to be released any day now it is a wine for those of you who love to say no to California chardonnay for its butter and oak but would love to say yes to a bracing crisply acidic Italian burst of vermentino. Remember, you read it here first. Wines That Deliver
2019 Sean Thackrey Pleiades Rosé, California, $19.99
Now in its second year under the Pleiades moniker, Bolinas’ Sean Thackrey’s rosé might now be firmly entrenched in the stars. Originally produced exclusively for Whole Foods Market, Thackrey (and winemaker Andréas Kreiger) had originally used the same sangiovese vineyard in Mendocino to make his 2018 Pleiades rosé as he had used to make his whimsically named Fifi rosé. Unlike the red versions of Pleiades, the rosé is not multi-vintage, so the 2019 Pleiades rosé is different than the 2018. It is down a notch in alcohol (14.8% to 13.2%) broadened out regionally (now labeled a far reaching “California wine”), yet it still deliverers bright fresh tasting strawberry rose across the palate. The 2019 California version might be slightly less robust than the 2018 Mendocino one, but is also 20 percent less expensive too. We call that a win. Thackrey and Company