1. SkinContactWhites/OrangeWines: All five of these PG's were made w/extended skin contact, but in a reductive manner (little/no air contact after completion of fermentation). I prefer to simply label these as skin-contact whites (regardless of their orange/copper color), rather than "orange" wines. I prefer to refer to "orange" wines as skin-contact whites, but made in an oxidative style; like the Gravner/Radikon/Georgian/qvervi paradigm. Since there is no real/precise definition of "orange" wines; this is the usage I prefer to adopt...and everybody else danged well better adopt that usage as well, I say!!
These 5 PinotGris were a very interesting bunch to taste. They all showed a similiar character that I can only call "phenolic" for want of a better/more precise word; but to varying degrees. But this phenolic character was the dominate character in the noses, with a bunch of underlying nuances from other things. Nothing that I would characterize as PinotGris varietal character...at least as I recognize it. They all showed a noticible tannic bite on the palate.
Of these 5 PG's, I liked KenZinns the best because it had a reduced level of phenolic character and more underlying fruit and a bit more lushness. Of the WindGaps, it was probably the '10 I liked the best because of less tannins and a bit more fruit/lushness on the palate.
These 5 PG's were a tough bunch to taste. Most of the people in the group did not care much for
them and were sorta left scratching their heads in puzzlement at what these wines meant. I think,
with food, they would be much more attractive wines to most of my tasters. I actually kinda liked the
wines and thought they were some of the better examples of skin-contact whites. "Interesting" was the term that kept running thru my mind as we tasted them. "Gobs of hedonistic fruit"??? Nope...not these wines. But definitely interesting. But, then, I'm a bit more opened minded when it comes to tasting eccentric wines like these. As we've been admonished to do by certain Monktown attourneys....you have "to think outside the box". I made a point to serve all of these PG's at a cool/room temperature/red wine temperature to minimize the tannic impact on the palate. When I put the leftover blend in the fridge overnight and tried it the next day, it was fiercely tannic and unpalatable. Room temperature also seems to enhance the phenolic/aldehydic character in the wines...for better or worse. Just don't serve these types of wines at too cold a temperature.
Whither skin-contact whites?? Got no idea. One of the benefits of making whites w/ skin contact is
that the higher tannin levels allow you to make wines w/ lower SO2 additions....the HolyGrail for
"natural" winemakers. The higher tannin levels, in theory, should allow them to age longer. Didn't
necessarily see that in this WindGap collection. Maybe, some 10 yrs down the road, the virtue of
these skin-contact whites will become more obvious. I'm clueless.
But, because these wines are rather on the eccentric side, I think they will appeal only to a pretty
small niche of wine drinkers who are more adventurous, not to your everyday white wine drinker. They won't sell at TraderJoe's I suspect. Or maybe only the the customers of very hip somms. But I
find these types of wines fascinating and am curious just how far these winemakers can push the boundaries until they make something w/absolutely no redeeming features. Thus far they're not there.
2. Ken Zinns: An old....errrr...long-time friend dating back to our early days at ZAP. Lives over in the
EastBay area. Like bad pennies, we kept running into each other at various wine events in Calif. We
share a lot of wasted band width on www.Grape-Nutz.com of Eric Anderson's Site. He makes a few of his own wines at both Eno w/ Sasha and Harrington w/ Bryan. A big help on the recent NEB4 event as well. This is the first KenZinns wine to receive a review by TomHill; a much more impressive imprimateur than's ever come out of Monktown. Fame & fortune is certain to follow....
3. Bryan Harrington: Gotta yield to Ken on this one as he's followed Bryan's work from the very start. But I was just right behind when I found out he was making Nebbiolo. Makes his wines in a rented space in a grungy/industrial part of SanFrancisco..one warehouse over from the GowanusCanal....or SanFrancisco's version of that putrid waterway. An iron fabrication shop occupies the front half. Alas, Katie the Riveter has long departed. But the wines coming out of this less-than chi/chi facility are pretty amazing.
Bryan's original passion was to make PinotNoir. And he makes some of the best around. But in a lighter/delicate/more balanced style than many in Calif. Not the kind to garner big scores from Monktown attourneys. But they're some of my favorites. Since then, Bryan's taken a few
detours from the Pinot rat-race and expanded (maybe gone off the deep end??) into other/lesser known varietials. Can we say Fiano/Teroldego/Nebbiolo? I think maybe Bryan is on the fast track to out-Rorick MattRorick in searching out varieties that are "forlorn hopes". The two of the must get together sometime to compare notes.