Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 19, 2021

2019 I. Brand & Family Winery, Melon de Bourgogne, Graff Family Vineyard, Chalone AVA, Monterey County.
The unique quince, bitter melon, saline and stony, mineral laced Melon de Bourgogne by Ian Brand is an austere and low alcohol white wine that pays homage to the Atlantic influenced wines of Muscadet in the western Loire, but with a modern twist and flourish, in a wine that transforms into a real beauty with food, especially briny dishes, perking up the aromatics, the fruit and softening the racy acidity. As a Muscadet fan, especially the wines of Frederic Niger at Domaine de L’Ecu, which are tasty with classic oysters and soft cheeses, they are salty fresh and leesy, so it was interesting to see how Ian would approach this wine, clearly he did his magic here and this is delicious stuff. Brand, who was one of the first to realize that what we once thought was Pinot Blanc here at Chalone was actually Melon de Bourgogne, the grape of Muscadet fame, and while some chose to continue to label it as Pinot Blanc, others chose to embrace the true identity and take wine winemaking steps to exploit the grape’s natural character, with a few nicknaming it Melon de Chalone, which I think is most fitting as these vines (and wines from here) are certainly distinctly their own and terroir driven. As this crisply detailed white gets air through it it stubbornly gains its leesy, skin contact texture and reveals tart peach, lemony citrus, wet stone and chalk from the classic limestone soils, as well as a touch of sour herbs, almond oil and verbena. This is non overt wine, serious with a purpose and a wine that will gain a select following with the wine geek crowd and it is going to be more compelling for the anti-Chardonnayers. When asked about his Melon de Bourgogne, Ian, with his dry humor says “ I think it worked out…” That it did and now I might have get a few more bottles for oyster slurping!

Known for his exceptional work with Grenache and Mourvedre, Ian Brand is a noted vineyard whisperer, finding and rejuvenating some lesser known or forgotten gems on the Central Coast, preferring out of the way and remote places to source his grapes, making a fabulous collection of no nonsense wines that offer tremendous value and rarity, with his Enz Vineyard Mourvedre being a huge standout. Ian is mostly thought of as a red wine wine guy, but I have always liked a few of his whites, in particular his versions of Albarino, which his sells under his La Marea label, which under he does his Spanish influenced wines, including two Albarinos (one with partial skin contact) and his Sierra de Gredos inspired Garnacha like Central Coast Grenache. Recently Ian added a classy Escolle Chardonnay and this Graff Family Vineyard Melon de Bourgogne to his top lineup of I. Brand & Family wines, both very worthy of your attention. The Graff Family Vineyards label wines were in later years were made by Ian, but now have been folded into Ian’s signature collection with a 100% Syrah, and Rhone Red Blend and this Melon all finding a good home here in the latest lineup. The Graff Family Vineyard, run by Phil Woodward, who was a partner in the famous Chalone winery along with the late Richard Graff, one of California’s historic figures and was set up to provide a trust to Graff’s children with proceeds still going to the family. I collect Ian’s Grenache and Mourvedre, but I must say I am falling for his Loire inspired Melon, which its 11.2% natural alcohol zestiness and his Chinon like Bayly Ranch Cabernet Franc, with its earthy intense palate, don’t miss these! There is a lot to like in Brand’s wines from the playful Le P’tit Paysan line, with the Rosé and Chateaneuf blend delivering bang for the buck to his Bordeaux like Bates Ranch Cab Franc and Montebello Road Cabernet Sauvignon leading his top offers, it is a good time check out these tasty efforts.
($32 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive