Two Vibrant California Whites: Palmina ‘Honea Vineyard’ Arneis 2012 and La Marea ‘Kristy Vineyard’ Albarino 2014
Since I ran my spotlight on unusual California white wines a year ago, I’ve been on the lookout for wines that fall in this category. They are increasingly exciting and tend to be more versatile than the Chardonnay for which California is famous.
On a recent trip to San Diego I tasted two excellent California whites based on a famous Italian and famous Spanish grape variety. They both represent the exploratory side of California and the value and quality to be found in some of the less famous regions. These are the sort of California wines that should more frequently grace wine lists.
Palmina focuses on Italian varieties in the Santa Barbara area. Its Arneis is grown in the Santa Ynez valley (more famous for Rhone and Bordeaux varieties) in alluvial soils. The region’s significant diurnal shifts make this wine possible. Most impressively, this wine had serious minerality and varietal character that was surprising to me: plenty of crisp green apple and flowers. I drank it with seafood, burrata pesto gnocchi and some wonderful Guancale pasta. Aged in stainless and neutral french oak.
Very Good+ to Excellent
$53 wine list at Bottega Americano, San Diego
La Marea Albarino
Boasting a pleasant label, La Marea is one of a new breed of Monterey based wineries that are realizing the unique potential of the very cool, coastal region. In my view Monterey is the least developed wine region with the greatest potential for unique wines. One of the reasons is the high amount of limestone in the soils, which increase a wine’s natural acidity. There is also the proximity to the coastal influence, which is very cool.
The Kristy Vineyard where this Albarino grows is on the western bench over the Salinas River where the vines are exposed to consistent wines from the Monterey Bay. The grapes are harvested at low brix because they are able to achieve phenolic ripeness with low potential alcohol. This lets the Albarino stay true to its Galician roots. The wine is whole cluster pressed and cold fermented.
$45 wine list at Ironside, San Diego