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Jenise

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Pinot Blanc: Let's forget this grape

by Jenise » Sun Apr 02, 2006 3:50 pm

Last night I opened an 04 Pinot Blanc from Oregon's St. Innocent winery. A little spicy and slightly off-dry, I had to put an ice cube in my glass to chill off the sweetness and make the wine the drinkable, refreshing white I had in mind when I opened the bottle.

And in doing so, it got me to thinking: Have I ever had a pinot blanc that made me go wow? Or even, let's have another glass of that? No, never. It's the most useless, boring, white wine grape I know. And I've had a gamut of them, from the not-quite-chard style of California's Chalone Vineyards to this not-quite-pinot-gris style from St. Innocent. All have seemed like lesser versions of something else, and none have shown me any unique personality that suggests that we wouldn't all be better off without this grape and paying more attention to interesting white grapes that there aren't enough of, like arneis and verdejo and romorantin.

All on board?
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Re: Pinot Blanc: Let's forget this grape

by Bob Henrick » Sun Apr 02, 2006 4:06 pm

Jenise wrote:Last night I opened an 04 Pinot Blanc from Oregon's St. Innocent winery. A little spicy and slightly off-dry, I had to put an ice cube in my glass to chill off the sweetness and make the wine the drinkable, refreshing white I had in mind when I opened the bottle.


I really can not get onboard this train Jenise. Before you completely write this grape off, spend another $14 or so and buy a bottle of the regular yellow lable of the Trimbach pinot blanc. Be sure you get a 2002 which is still drinking very well, or a 2004, DO NOT buy a bottle of the 2003 as it will likely be a rather insipid under stated lacking in acid wine. If I were to be honest that latter is pure guesswork on my part as I have not had a 2003 version of this wine.
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Re: Pinot Blanc: Let's forget this grape

by Robin Garr » Sun Apr 02, 2006 4:19 pm

Jenise wrote:It's the most useless, boring, white wine grape I know.


Although as BobH notes, there's always an exception to prove the rule - and said exception likely comes from Alsace - I'll agree in general that it's right down there with French Colombard or Seyval.
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by Jenise » Sun Apr 02, 2006 4:23 pm

But Bob, just think--if they rip out the pinot blanc in Alsace, then they can grow even more reisling and gewurz. Wouldn't that be a good thing?
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by Ed Draves » Sun Apr 02, 2006 4:24 pm

I was "wow'd" by the SA Prum Pinot Blanc, it had a great green apple finish.
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by Bob Henrick » Sun Apr 02, 2006 4:37 pm

Jenise wrote:But Bob, just think--if they rip out the pinot blanc in Alsace, then they can grow even more reisling and gewurz. Wouldn't that be a good thing?


Again in honesty Jenise, I would rather have pb from Alsace than riesling. For that I can go to Germany, and if I want really dry riesling I can get them in OZ. and I am not a big fan off Gwertz from anywhere. I love the mineral/wet stone quality I find on the Alsatian pb's, and I like the price on the pb too.
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Ain't Buying It, Jenise.....

by TomHill » Sun Apr 02, 2006 4:55 pm

True....there's a lot of very unthrilling PB out there. Many of the Alsatian versions I find lean/minerally/stoney...in short...just like all Alsatian wines used to be made 30-40 yrs ago. So, to me, Alsatian PB is what real Alsatian wine is about.
Some of the early Chalone PBs were tremendous, from the '60's-'70's. And they seemed to age better than the Chards. But Chalone doesn't make PB like that anymore...sad.
PB is a lot like PinotGris/PinotGrigio....sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince. But there are a lot of princes out there.
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Re: Pinot Blanc: Let's forget this grape

by Arnt Egil Nordlien » Sun Apr 02, 2006 5:48 pm

Jenise wrote:Have I ever had a pinot blanc that made me go wow?


TN:Cantina Terlan pinot bianco 1980
Thanks to Paolo Lolli, for letting me have both his bottles to come straight from Cantina Terlan. Unfortunately the label was almost destroyed, so I don't know if there is more info to add to the name. The straw colour was a very healthy and young looking. Fresh nose, a bit shy at first, but with air, showing very beautiful and complex. Floral, smokey background and very minerally. Medium bodied and elegant in the mouth. Surprisingly young and crisp style. But with an evolved floral and mineral fruit. Good length. Great wine. Fantastic food-wine.

There was also some recently released '66 around. Unfortunately I did not have a chance to taste it.
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by Thomas » Sun Apr 02, 2006 6:45 pm

I second the Terlan Pinot Bianco recoomendation. Outstanding producer of the grape.

Jenise, sometimes it's the combination of the site and the winemaker that ruins a wine and not the grape's fault... I'm still waiting for the majority of California and Washington State to produce consistently fantastic Riesling, but that doesn't stop me from drinking German, Alsatian and Finger Lakes Riesling.

Now, if you want to ban a grape, I vote for muscat ;)
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Somethings to consider

by Steve Edmunds » Sun Apr 02, 2006 7:08 pm

They grow real Pinot Blanc (the white variant that began its genetic history as Pinot Noir, the same grape historically grown in Burgundy, and Friuli) in Oregon, and, more recently in a few plantings in California. It's not clear that the "Pinot Blanc"originally at Chalone is that same grape. (Historically, most of the wine sold as Pinot Blanc in California, was, of course, Melon de Bourgogne, i.e. Muscadet) The grape planted in Alsace is not that same grape.
Pinot Blancs I've really enjoyed include Cameron in Willamette Valley, Jermann, in Friuli, and Domaine Ponsot in Burgundy. All, I believe, are wines worthy of your attention; they're marvelous.
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Re: Pinot Blanc: Let's forget this grape

by MarkE » Sun Apr 02, 2006 8:16 pm

Jenise wrote: All have seemed like lesser versions of something else, and none have shown me any unique personality that suggests that we wouldn't all be better off without this grape and paying more attention to interesting white grapes that there aren't enough of, like arneis and verdejo and romorantin.

All on board?


There's a reason why some call it pinot bland. Most of them are indeed insipid. But get yourself an Albert Boxler's PB you'd change your mind like I did; IMO it sets the standard for PB anywhere, with a nice balance of fruit, minerals and acidity.
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Re: Pinot Blanc: Let's forget this grape

by Bob Henrick » Sun Apr 02, 2006 9:33 pm

MarkE wrote:There's a reason why some call it pinot bland. Most of them are indeed insipid. But get yourself an Albert Boxler's PB you'd change your mind like I did; IMO it sets the standard for PB anywhere, with a nice balance of fruit, minerals and acidity.


Mark, it is like Otto says about Musar (and he is right) Alsace Rocks! :-)
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by Paul B. » Sun Apr 02, 2006 9:34 pm

Jenise, here in Ontario I would consider Pinot Blanc to be among the successful white vinifera grapes that are grown and vinified into VQA wine. I've had a few of them over the years and always find the wines gentle aromatically, but very supple and full in the mouth.

Of course, self-respecting wineries will make it dry, and thank goodness this is indeed the way most of ours in Ontario get made.

That said, I have zero experience with West Coast Pinot Blanc or any Old World Pinot Bianco iterations thereof.
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by Bob Parsons Alberta » Sun Apr 02, 2006 11:41 pm

Jenise, what about the Cedar Creek PB? A very nice white from the Okanagan. And yup, Alsace rocks!!!!

Any birding activity out your way?
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Re: Pinot Blanc: Let's forget this grape

by Oliver McCrum » Mon Apr 03, 2006 2:19 am

Arnt Egil Nordlien wrote:
Jenise wrote:Have I ever had a pinot blanc that made me go wow?


TN:Cantina Terlan pinot bianco 1980
Thanks to Paolo Lolli, for letting me have both his bottles to come straight from Cantina Terlan. Unfortunately the label was almost destroyed, so I don't know if there is more info to add to the name. The straw colour was a very healthy and young looking. Fresh nose, a bit shy at first, but with air, showing very beautiful and complex. Floral, smokey background and very minerally. Medium bodied and elegant in the mouth. Surprisingly young and crisp style. But with an evolved floral and mineral fruit. Good length. Great wine. Fantastic food-wine.

There was also some recently released '66 around. Unfortunately I did not have a chance to taste it.


I was about to say the same thing.

Pinot Blanc in the Alto Adige can make excellent minerally ageworthy white wine. I had the 02 Vorberg from Terlaner (not 40 years old, but still...) recently, and it was deeelicious.

Even the basic PBs from this region are usually much more interesting than the PGs from the same producers.
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by David M. Bueker » Mon Apr 03, 2006 8:20 am

Indeed there is a lot of boring Pinot Blanc out there, but when it goes by its other name, Weissburgunder, in Austria there is some amazing wine to be found. 2 weeks ago I had the pleasure of drinking a 2004 Rudi Pichler Weissburgunder (don't have the exact info in front of me) that was just spectacular. The 1997 Hiedler Weissburgunder 'Maximum' is still drinking very well nearly 10 years on. Heidi Schrock makes wonderful Pinot Blanc (again as Weissburgunder).

So the good stuff comes from places other than Alsace (though I do like the Alsatian versiona as well). I have not yet opened my bottle of the St. Innocent. I will be very curious to taste it now. Perhaps this weekend.
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Re: Pinot Blanc: Let's forget this grape

by Peter May » Mon Apr 03, 2006 9:42 am

Jenise wrote: I've had a gamut of them, from the not-quite-chard style of California's Chalone Vineyards to this not-quite-pinot-gris style from St. Innocent.


Vines sometimes excellin certain areas and are only so-so in other areas. Is your comment aimed only at California & Oregon Pinot Blancs, or are you damning the variety wherever it is grown?
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Weissburgunder

by Paul B. » Mon Apr 03, 2006 11:39 am

I have to try some Alsatian and possibly Austrian Weissburgunder - that really has me interested.

As I say, here in Ontario I think that the grape makes some nice, aromatically gentle albeit well-textured whites. If I lived in a climate that presented minimal challenges for Pinot Blanc, I might grow some myself.
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Re: Pinot Blanc: Let's forget this grape

by Jenise » Mon Apr 03, 2006 1:34 pm

Vines sometimes excellin certain areas and are only so-so in other areas. Is your comment aimed only at California & Oregon Pinot Blancs, or are you damning the variety wherever it is grown?


Peter, I was aiming my gun at domestic versions especially. I've actually had some good Alsatians, but outside of Alsace I have yet to taste a PB that made a case for not ripping all the vines out and planting something else.

To all of you who mentioned Terlan--I once had the pleasure of sitting through a tasting of Terlans, which included a ten or twelve year old sauvignon blanc. Amazing, amazing wines. I probably tasted a PB even though I do not remember it specifically, but I do remember that every single wine was a work of art, so I do not doubt your endorsement nor your tales of how these wines age.

And Weissburgunder is Pinot Blanc? Ah, this I did not know.
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Re: Pinot Blanc: Let's forget this grape

by David M. Bueker » Mon Apr 03, 2006 1:37 pm

Jenise wrote:
And Weissburgunder is Pinot Blanc? Ah, this I did not know.


Yup. And Grauburgunder is Pinot Gris.

Dönnhoff makes both, though none comes to the USA. :cry:
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Re: Somethings to consider

by Jenise » Mon Apr 03, 2006 5:26 pm

Steve Edmunds wrote:Pinot Blancs I've really enjoyed include Cameron in Willamette Valley, Jermann, in Friuli, and Domaine Ponsot in Burgundy. All, I believe, are wines worthy of your attention; they're marvelous.


Steve, thanks for those names. I'm quite surprised to see an Oregon PB--that is, any domestic producer--on your list.
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by Jenise » Mon Apr 03, 2006 5:44 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:Jenise, what about the Cedar Creek PB? A very nice white from the Okanagan. And yup, Alsace rocks!!!!

Any birding activity out your way?


Bob, I was completely unaware that Cedar Creek made a PB. PG yes, chardonnay yes, but PB? News to me. Not sure I'd like their style based on my memories of the other two being a bit on the fat side. I don't even like Blue Mountain's, though I'm otherwise a fan of that winery's whites.

Birding? Yes! Last night we had a first for our yard, the first night in ages we've been able to sit out comfortably on the beach-side deck, in that a dozen or so Black Turnstones landed in the shallow water of low tide among a bunch of our ever-present gulls. I was just now looking to see if any had come back. No--but there's a pair of breeding Common Loons, an otter, Buffleheads, Harlequin ducks, two types of Goldeneyes and a single female Red Merganser. That's a typical Spring, low-wind kind of list.
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by wnissen » Mon Apr 03, 2006 6:50 pm

At the risk of overly systemizing things, I feel like there are three ways a varietal can be good: Average quality, average value, and the greatness of individual examples. To give an example, pinot noir might not have high average value or quality, but the great ones make up for it. Riesling, in my mind, scores well in all three aspects.

Pinot blanc seems to fall short in each of the three aspects. Quality seems to be all over the map, and usually prices are nearly as high as the other wines made by a producer. As for individual greatness, I'll leave that for others to argue about. I've not had one I would describe as "great."

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