A Shock to my System

Sometimes I feel left out and sometimes I just feel annoyed – about Pinot Grigio.

I just don’t get Pinot Grigio, I sort of understand why it sells – it usually doesn’t taste of anything, so the focus of your evening remains the conversation, the wine stays in the background to lubricate your palate.

I need acidity in a white wine though, so the slight bitterness on the finish of virtually every Pinot Grigio is unpleasant to me.

It is fair to say that, with the exception of some rich Friulian examples, I avoid Pinot Grigio if I possibly can. Pinot Gris however can be a very different thing, and I enjoy the occasional taste of that from Alsace or even New Zealand – Pinot Gris seems to me to generally have more depth, honesty and concentration but even then I really want more acidity.

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The beautiful Cade Winery

So, the other day I was at a dinner in the Napa Valley, in the most beautiful and most dramatic winery building I have ever seen. The starter was Caesar Salad, I didn’t want to drink a big Napa red with it and the only white on the table was………..a Pinot Grigio.

So, I took my courage in both hands and tried it. Well perhaps I really needed some white wine, perhaps it really was good or perhaps it just went really well with the salad, but I enjoyed it and thought it was a very good wine.

Benessere Pinot Grigio 2008
Napa Valley Carneros
The colour was quite deep, almost gold, hinting at a wine with more depth than most PGs.
The nose was slightly smoky and honeyed with hints of toasted nuts and cream.
The palate was quite fat with a creamy texture, ripe apricot characters and gently spicy with an underlying balancing freshness and acidity. The wine is completely dry.
The creaminess comes from using native yeast and lees ageing and stirring in neutral barrels.The finish is slightly hot, but overall it feels balanced and treads a fine line between being juicy enough to have substance while being fresh enough to give the impression of crispness.

I liked this wine, it was rather good and went very, very well with Caesar Salad – which as you can imagine came as a bit of a shock!

It just goes to show how good it is that I have an open mind.

Benessere (pronounced Ben-es-er-ree in America) is a small winery created by John and Ellen Benish in 1994. They mainly produce wines with an Italian twist to them, including Sangiovese and blends including Sangiovese, Cabernet and Aglianico. They even make a ‘Super-Napan’ blend. The winery and main vineyards are in St Helena, but their Pinot Grigio is grown in the much cooler Carneros area of southern Napa.

As far as I can tell this wine is not available in the UK, but the winery can be contacted here.

10 thoughts on “A Shock to my System

  1. Pingback: A Shock to my System « Quentin Sadler's Wine Page | The Bottle and Cork - Napa and Sonoma Wine blog

  2. Nice wine comment again, Quentin.
    My only question: how can one be sure if a pinot grigio from Carneros is Italian or French or even German in origin – after all, pinot grigio might be the only name Californians know for that grape.

  3. Thank you Hervé
    I take it that you mean that if the main name in California for Pinot Gris is Pinot Grigio – which it might well be I think, then how do you tell which style the wine leans towards – light Pinot Grigio, rich Pinot Gris or Rulander?
    I cannot really answer this as all the wines labeled Pinot Grigio that have tried from California are richer than any standard Italian examples. So perhaps the California parameters are set different for Pinot Grigio, just as they are with Sauvignon Blanc?

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