2021 I. Brand & Family Winery, Pinot Gris “Ramato” Eden Rift Vineyard, Cienega Valley AVA, San Benito County.
More dynamic and exciting than last years excellent version, the coppery/pinkish skin fermented 2021 I. Brand & Family Winery Pinot Gris, Ramato style wine is an awesome example of how to do a new world orange wine, on par with one of my favorites, Cameron’s Dundee Hills Ramato, from the Willamette Valley in Oregon and a wine that goes great with food, it’s not just a one glass wonder, it will almost certainly be a wine that you wish you had another bottle of. Like last year, this wine delivers a textural mouth feel that is absolutely divine and the fruit is sharply detailed with supple layers of Fuji apple and red apple skin, a touch of strawberry, melon and peach fruits as well as some zesty ruby citrus, seamlessly folding together on the smooth medium bodied palate along with a chalky element, wet stone, subtle florals, a hint herbs, a bit of almond paste and a crisp saline note. This wine that takes its cues from the northeast of Italy is one of Ian Brand’s cool set of white and skin influenced wines, joining his Arneis, a rare Piedmonte grape, his Melon from the Chalone AVA, the dry and leesy grape of the Loire Valley’s Muscadet region, that is tasty with briny oysters, as well as his Alternative Cut Albarino, that he sells under his La Marea label, all of which should not be overlooked in Brand’s collection of new releases. Coming from the Eden Rift Vineyard in the Cienega Valley, next door to local favorites DeRose Vineyards and the famous Calera Mount Halan Estate, this Pinot Gris enjoys a special micro climate that brings out the best in these grapes. The valley floor is divided by the famous San Andreas fault, and the region does shake quite a bit, and there is plenty of micro climates to chose from, and a surprising amount of unique varietals to be found here with everything from the mentioned Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, to rare Negrette and Cabernet Pfeffer, which, excitingly, Ian plans on releasing next year, along with old vine Zinfandel and Carignane, as well as lesser known Italian grapes like Freisa and the Arneis varietal noted above.
As noted before, Romato, a word that means copper in Italian, is a term used for the classic versions of this slighter fresher example of “orange wine” that hugely successful in the northeast of Italy close to the Slovenian border, with Gravner, Skerk and Radikon being iconic producers from there. Ian’s Pinot Gris was fermented on the skins for 4 days, and then aged a short time in neutral barrels, which left the color so inviting and additionally gives the wine its structural tannin as well as supple mouth feel, it is wine that goes well with Uni, chicken skewers, smoked salmon and or ceviche. The rise of skin contact whites (including Gris grapes) has gone from a fad to serious stuff here in California, with Ian saying he was influenced by Scott Schultz of Jolie-Laide, who’s gained quite an insider reputation for them, they are not the weird and funk stuff they used to be, especially with wines such as this one being wonderfully balanced and drinkable. Ian Brand has been working with many of these unique sites for years now and, as mentioned here, has found some real gems in Lyme Kiln Valley, like the Enz Vineyard as well as in the Cienega Valley, where this wine comes from, which became an AVA in 1982 and is located in the cooler western side of the San Benito County. It’s an area that is interestingly home to some of the oldest and most famous Pinot Noir vines in California, that the late Josh Jensen of Calera used to legendary effect over the last three or ore decades, so it is not surprising that Pinot Gris does well here too. The combination of granite and limestone soils found in this part of the valley, at approximately 1,100 feet up above sea level, and with a cold air (wind) gap to the Ocean, it sees lots of sunny days, making for warm ripening conditions, plus nice cold nights that refresh the vines to retain vital natural acidity, all of which is brilliantly showcased in this vintage of Brand’s Pinot Gris. I’ve been highly impressed by the latest set of wines here, they are all of interest, and while Brand’s reds get a lion’s share of attention, every wine is a studied effort, but it is hard to escape the charms of Ian’s Grenache offerings, they are joyous on release and age surprisingly well, it is a good time to refresh your senses with Ian’s wines.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive