2020 I. Brand & Family Winery, Skin Contact Pinot Gris, Eden Rift Vineyard, Cienega Valley AVA, San Benito County.
The brilliantly cooper hued skin contact Pinot Gris is one of the biggest successes for this 2020 vintage in Ian Brand’s set of new releases with its beautiful color in the glass only the beginning in this intriguing Romato style wine that is well rounded, complex and smoothly textured showing off a compelling play between lush and savory elements. This is my favorite vintage of this wine so far, the mouth feel is absolutely divine and the fruit is more crisply detailed with pink apple and apple skin, a touch of strawberry and peach as well as some zesty citrus, all of which come together along with saline rich wet stone, a bit of almond paste, phenolic grip or extract and a subtle earthiness that really works in making this wine that much more interesting and good with a range of cuisine choices. 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 alternative wines from white or Gris grapes has been a remarkable feat in California and looks to beat the fad or trendy label some critics have put out there, these wines are here to stay.

Ian Brand has been working with many of these unique sites and has found some real gems in Lyme Kiln Valley, like the Enz Vineyard as well as in the Cienega Valley, which became an AVA in 1982 and is located in the cooler western side of the San Benito County, an area that is interestingly home to some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines in California, so it is not surprising that Pinot Gris does well here, especially with 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 gap to the Ocean, it sees lots of sunny days, making for warm ripening conditions and well rounded wines. 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 along with old vine Zinfandel and Carignane, as well as lesser known Italian grapes like Freisa and Arneis, which Ian now does to great acclaim. Pinot Gris (Grigio) had become a much reviled grape, with thousands of boring, bland and or sweet versions out there, but has been resurrected in recent years by wines like this. In Ian’s collection of rarities, this one shouldn’t be missed, as well as his Melon, in the whites and his famous old vine Enz Mourvedre, the Grenache(s), the Cabernet Sauvignon(s), especially the Fellom Ranch Vineyard, and the Cabernet Franc(s) in the reds, all of which are showing fantastic right now.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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