2013 WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Blanc
Willamette Valley, Oregon
If you follow this blog regularly, you know that I review more red wines than white. It's not that I like red wines more, it's just what I buy more often (hard to explain... who knows?!?). When I do buy and review white wines, I tend toward the higher acid, fresh whites that lean toward traditional Chablis, Muscadet, and the like. Even more, I love fresh white wines aged on the lees, as it adds a level of complexity, texture, and fleshiness that is otherwise unattainable without aging in oak or manipulating the wine in some other way. What I haven't found much is Pinot Blanc aged on the lees ... until I randomly came across this incredible bottle from WillaKenzie Winery in Oregon, all thanks to the wine.com subscription that was gifted to us.
So, Pinot Blanc. It's been compared to Betty Draper on Mad Men and is largely misunderstood and underappreciated throughout the wine world. Though Pinot Blanc is relatively well-known in theory, there are very few single-varietal bottles produced in the United States, or anywhere else for that matter. Of those that are, there are even fewer that are any good. So where do you go to find secretly delicious bottles of this unheralded grape?
Oregon, of course.
While Pinot Blanc is third or fourth fiddle to Oregon's more prominent grapes-Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, even Riesling-it has an intriguing history in the state. David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards was the first to plant Pinot Blanc in 1965, or at least what he thought was Pinot Blanc, until he later found out that the grapes were actually Melon de Bourgogne (see article: http://oregonwinepress.com/blanc). This was before genetic testing of vines was available when mistaken grape identifies were commonplace. The first true planting of Pinot Blanc was sourced by David Adelhseim and Dick Erath in the 1980's and there are now 200 acres planted across several different regions, many of which exhibit enormous differences in terroir. I didn't get beyond the Willamette Valley for this post but that will be good fodder for a future post.
Now, to the wine. I drank two bottles of Pinot Blanc and while the Grochau (pictured at left) was laudable and tasty in its own right, the WillaKenzie blew me away and claims the prize as my favorite white wine in the past 3-4 months and the first white wine I've tagged as Exceptional. The wine is very pale in the glass but masks an incredible nose. There is heavy citrus on the nose with a healthy dose of fruitiness, green apple, minerality, and a hint of yeasty undertones. While I wouldn't describe this as opulent, like the back of the label says, the WillaKenzie Pinot Blanc is immaculately well-balanced, which is a feat in itself given its searing acidity and oozing minerality. The wine is medium-to-full bodied with a nice structure and the potential to age for for 3-5 years, though I recommend drinking it as soon as you get your hands on it. The finish keeps going, and going, and going and cleanses your palate with delightful citrusy aftertaste. This is an absolutely outstanding wine, one I could drink anytime of the year... as a refreshing aperitif in the summer or to pair with roasted chicken in the heart of winter. For $20 and under, it's a great value as well.
WillaKenzie Estate is certified sustainable through LIVE and Salmon Safe and powers the majority of their operations with onsite solar power. The estate and tasting room are immaculate and well-worth visiting. I've had seven or eight other Pinot Blancs from Oregon recently, and while I didn't have a chance to write up the other bottles, don't miss a chance to drink this varietal when it's produced by Eyrie Vineyards, Bethel Heights, St. Innocent, Ken Wright Cellars, and Adelsheim. www.willakenzie.com