White Wine of the Week
A Pick from Her VineNess
2011 Big Basin Vineyards Wirz Vineyard Riesling, Cienega Valley, $25
This classic Riesling comes from 40-year old vines at the Wirz Vineyard in the Cienega Valley, on the northeast end of the Gabilan Mountains in San Benito County, where soils are eroded granite and limestone. Rain at the end of 2011 promoted the formation of botrytis, known as “noble rot,” which adds aromatic complexity to the wine. The grapes were whole-cluster pressed, and fermented with indigenous yeast in neutral barrels, with no malolactic fermentation to preserve the acidity.
The wine is a brilliant golden yellow color in the glass. The wonderfully aromatic nose holds teases of petrol, wet paverstones, hyacinth, air-dried linen, star jasmine and lime zest. Racy flavors of lychee, orange marmalade, pear chutney and coriander give the overriding impression of rafting on a subtly energetic river, along honeysuckle-lined banks, the aromas of wet rocks and smashing river waves overwhelming all else. This wine will be ideal with Asian seafood dishes: perhaps clay pot black cod or white fish sautéed with shitake mushrooms, green onions, cilantro and hearts of palm. It would also be sublime with a chicken salad of fennel, water chestnuts, sour cream and apricot chutney.
While drinking great now, it should age for 20-plus years.
The artist for Big Basin’s label is Matt Jones, a Santa Cruz artist who specializes in 3D performance painting, done mainly to music, although wine is an inspiration as well.
Laura Ness, aka “Her VineNess,” has called the Santa Cruz Mountains home for more thasn 30 years. She loves hanging out with winemakers and winegrowers in their vineyards and cellars, drinking in their quirky, inspiring stories, and of course, their wines. She most enjoys sharing her experiences with people as besotted with wine and food as she is, and happily recommends good bottles of wine for your drinking pleasure.