2021 I. Brand & Family Winery, Arneis, Vista Verde Vineyard, San Benito County.
The second release of Arneis from Ian Brand and his I. Brand & Family Winery is very exciting stuff, cooler toned, when compared to the impressive 2020, and chalky with tons of energy, this 2021 is crisply detailed and lithe with a pithy citrus, white peach and quince led lighter framed palate. As noted on the last vintage, the grapes are sourced from the calcareous soils of the Vista Verde Vineyard, in the San Benito County, that is most famous for supplying William Selyem with Pinot Noir for their Central Coast bottling, and is set on gravel and pebbles, laced with calcium. This site sees a cooling influence thanks to inflow breezes off the Pacific Ocean, allowing for a lengthy growing season, making for ripe and balanced grapes, with this year highlighting the extra cool growing season we had on the central coast of California. Brand’s latest Arneis, which has a pale straw/yellow hue in the glass, is delicately aromatic and mineral laced and opens up with spice and supple texture, it finishes with saline, tangy and subtle bitterness. Once fully unwound, this taut and youthfully fresh gains a sense of roundness and is lingering, but with, as mentioned in my review of Brand’s 2020, a dry phenolic vitality, making this one again, wonderful with soft cheeses, lighter fare, scallops, clams and or white fish dishes

The Arneis grape, originally from the Langhe area of Piedmonte, which dates back most likely to the 14th century is first recorded by name in 1877, it’s name in local dialect means little rascal, has also been called Nebbiolo Bianco, though it has no genetic relationship to the notable Piedmontese red wine, but the two grapes do share a close historic relationship. It has been noted, that for centuries, Arneis was blended into Nebbiolo wines, being used to soften the tannin(s) and harshness of powerful Nebbiolo grape, most historically in the wines of the Barolo region, before the practice was banned for the DOCG wines that must be 100% Nebbiolo. Arneis was often inter-planted in the Barolo vineyards to lure the birds away from the Nebbiolo, as it has a much sweeter scent and saved the prime money making Nebbiolo from a starling feast. Arneis is known to be difficult to grow, with low acidity it needs to be picked at exactly the right time, and is susceptible to mildew, which is probably why it has its little rascal name, though it can be awesome, especially by the likes of Vietti, Ceretto and Bruno Giacosa. I’ve been very impressed with the latest set of wines and upcoming releases here at the I. Brand & Family Winery, especially Ian’s Grenache, this zesty Arneis, the 2021 Albarino and his set of Cab Francs! Next ups here looks to be an all new bottling of Gamay from the Escolle Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands, which I am very much looking forward to, so it is a great time to explore this label more deeply.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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