2018 La Marea, Albariño, Kristy Vineyard, Monterey County.
Ian Brand’s La Marea Albariño is one of the most serious wines of his portfolio and a real sleeper in his set of wines, especially in the last two vintages where it has seen a unique skin contact portion in the final blend and a touch of lees that makes it come across more Loire Valley like, picking up almost Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume like character that is out of this world, while retaining Albarino’s natural appeal, charm and personality. Layers of citrus lead the way with lemon/lime, green melon, unripe/bitter apple, gooseberry-sort of “hello kitty” and racy peach fruits combine with saline, wet rock, a touch of herb and almond oil. All of which make this dry white wonderfully mouth watering and tartly fresh, it is as mentioned quite serious and fantastic with sea food, one of Albarino’s classic hallmarks making it a great version of this Galician grape, who’s spiritual home is in the Rías Baixas region of Spain.
The Kristy Vineyard, with vines grown on the western bench above the Salinas River is set on broken sediment of the region’s ancient sea beds that influences the local soils, and it is kept cool being that it is fully exposed to constant blast of winds off the Monterey Bay. Kristy, as Brand notes, is special because Albariño in the vineyard reaches full phenological ripeness, allowing for full flavor development and complexity, at low potential alcohol and it bristles with bright natural acidity. Ian picked this Kristy Albarino under 22 brix with vigorous acid intensity. Then he used 2/3’s whole cluster pressed as well as 1/3 destemmed, which was left on skins for two days, again adding complexity, depth and phenolics, including a touch of tannin. The skin contact portion of the blend was inoculated with a ‘pied de cuvée’ yeast culture harvested and allowed to start in the vine rows at the Kristy Vineyard and brought back to the cellar. Like Ian’s Rosé, the Albarino was cold fermented in stainless steel to preserve minerality, aromatics and freshness, as well as having the secondary fermentation is arrested, in other words, no malo, then it was aged on its lees four months to add a sense of textural form while staying severely crisp.
Albariño has become the new white grape darling in Monterey and it’s showing great potential here, especially Ian’s version which rivals some the better Rias Baixas estates, including some of favorites like Nanclares and Do Ferreiro. Ian Brand who is getting a lot of attention for his wines makes three distinct series of offerings, the Le P’Tit Paysan line of value wines that includes his fabulous dry Rosé, a Chateauneuf style blend, a Viognier, a stylish Cabernet and a gripping Petite Sirah, along with his signature line of I. Brand & Family wines with a pair of Cab Francs, the Old Vine Mourvedre, one of the best in California, the killer Monte Bello Road Cabernet Sauvignon and a new 100% Grenache bottling from Brosseau Vineyard as well as this La Marea line that highlights the state’s Spanish grapes and or influence, with this impressive Albarino offering being my favorite.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive