The 2011 Pineto Brachetto d’Acqui and 2009 Bodegas Paso Robles Doña Blanca are wines of different worlds. Besides the fact Pineto’s Brachetto d’Acqui is a sweet red sparkling wine from Italy’s broader Piedmont region and Doña Blanca is a Grenache Blanc/Malvasia Bianca dry white central coast California wine, the Paso Robles produced Doña Blanca deepens their disconnect with a pair of grape varieties more commonly worked in Spain and France. While polarized by style, variety, and geography, they connect as two of the most surprising, captivating, and interesting wines I have recently discovered. The only other similarity are retail price tags under $25.
I know very little first hand about Bodegas Paso Robles where Dorothy Schuler is self made winemaker and proprietor. The little I am familiar with, all second hand, comes from pal Richard Auffrey who raved about the Bodegas Paso Robles wines after spending some time with Dorothy tasting through the portfolio at the winery a few years back. There in Paso Robles she makes wine from Spanish, Portugese, and Rhone varieties sourced around the state. I ordered the wine in the middle of a magical and pinnacle dining session at n/naka (highly recommended for either the Kaiseki or tasting menus that replicate their finest Tokyo and Kyoto analogs) in Los Angeles, where we experienced one of the finest Japanese tasting menus available this side of the Pacific. Rich paired it off with four different bottles of compelling Sakes that would make anyone wonder why they don’t drink brewed rice more often. Still, somewhere in the middle of the meal I craved vinifera wine.
Considering the dizzying Sakes and elegant food that had been coming at us for hours, Grenache Blanc sounded right considering the varietal restraint and food friendliness I love about it. The **** $18 Bodegas Paso Robles Doña Blanca blend adds 40% Malavasia Bianca to the 60% dominant Grenache Blanc. The edgy, herbal, citric, and graceful mysteries of white Grenache is buffeted by floral aromas and mouthwatering richness of the white Malvasia. The result is a perfectly conceived blend with explosively pretty aromatics, middle weight richness, and slate like structure that is unlike any California wine I can ever remember tasting. For comparison purpose, think about a cross between a blended Chateauneuf du Pape Rousanne/Marasanne and Galician Godello. It makes you swoon from its exquisite perfume and then sit up with its linear and clean underlying structure. It represents the finest qualities of its three worlds; California, Spain, and France. There are not many white wines made in California, or for that matter anywhere in the world, that can produce a similar joy that this wine does for a mere $18. Try it and get ready to give Dorothy Schuler a deserved aplauso ruidoso.
Moving East across an ocean, to the northwest corner of Italy, Brachetto d’Aqui was recently awarded DOCG status and is produced at less than 20 communes throughout thes provinces of Allesandria and Asti. Brachetto skin is black and made into sweet red frizzante styled wine. After a lively social evening slurping down pho in Lowell, Massachusetts (of all places), we reconvened for Bob’s 50th birthday chocolate cake and Brachetto d’Acqui celebration.
It was a first for me (not 50th birthday parties but for Brachetto d’Alba). A small miscue was to drink it without a slight chill, but the serving temperature faux pax could not get in the way of the ***1/2 $21 2011 Marenco Pineto Brachetto d’Acqui‘s fun and sexy allure. Lively bubbles declare a celebration, strawberry and floral aromatics make it decadently sexy, and fizz charges its elegant, round, and soft mouthfeel that finishes with sweetness short of anything syrupy. The wine is pure fun, something different, and just perfect with chocolate. I imagine it would also pair neatly with rich berry pies and ice cream. It reminded me of a sparkling version of Moscato Rosas from Alto Adige, just to the east. There are times I can not imagine a better wine for the moment, and this Brachetto starred in another one of these memorable vignettes.
Two wines, different worlds, out of the ordinary, laced with pleasure, built for food and celebration, under $25; is there a better case?