Ripe in Time
The only wine of its kind in the county is one of five up-and-comers to watch for.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
There is a chance for peace in the local white wine world. The rival Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay camps, long mutually suspicious and occasionally combative, have hope for reconciliation. The peacemaker originated in Spain or Portugal (depending on who you ask), grows today in Corsica, Sardinia, and the coastal arc running from Tuscany into southern France – and now, thankfully, Monterey County.
Its name is Vermentino. “It’s very different, people don’t know what to expect,” says Mark Chesebro, who also crafts five other wines. “It’s been described as Pinot Gris with a college education.
“What I’ve noticed is that white drinkers split between Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. This has had a good response with both. It’s more aromatic and high acid like Sauvignon Blanc but has a finish for those who like a richer Chard.”
Chesebro had long wanted to plant the late-ripening grape here, where the local climate so closely mirrors the Mediterranean climate where it flourishes. So when Paso Robles’ Tablas Creek Vineyard made some vines available for purchase, he jumped at the opportunity and introduced it at his Cedar Lane Vineyard in Arroyo Seco.
On the tongue, the 2006 Chesebro Vermentino arrives approachable and fruit forward, with a little pop of citrus and pear that finds a weight and taste that aren’t too heavy, light or acidic. The flavor is sweet without being cloying, the finish surprisingly fat, and it only improved as the wine opened up. One sommelier’s assessment of this wine as the top Vermentino in California doesn’t seem far off.
It’s available at local shops like Grove Market in Pacific Grove and Monterey’s Casa Bodega for about $12-$15 – Chesebro unsuprisingly urges shoppers to put a bug in their local purveyor’s ear to stock it, saying, “people have no idea how much power they have.” It’s also appearing in more and more top restaurants like the Sardine Factory, Passionfish and Montrio, joining other increasingly popular imported Italian, French and Spanish whites like Albarihño and Trebbiano.