Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Crazy White Blends of Compagni Portis

Bedrock Wine Co. describes Sonoma Valley’s Compagni Portis Vineyard as “a jewel remaining from a bygone age.” Originally planted in 1954, before everyone began uprooting obscure white varieties in favor of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, the Compagni Portis vineyard is a gnarled hodgepodge of old vine white varieties: gewurtzraminer, trousseau gris, riesling, burger, green Hungarian and some that are still unidentified.

The label art is almost as gnarly as the vines themselves.
The Compagni Portis vineyard is a perfect example of quality taking precedent over quantity. These old vines produce ultra-low yields, but those grapes are packed with concentrated aromas and flavors. The resulting field blends offer some of the most delicious and educational drinking experiences in all of California white wine.

Bedrock’s winemaker describes this six-acre vineyard as, “a sporadic, seemingly random, assemblage of varieties that can only be found together here in California’s oldest vineyards and makes a wine more indicative of place than variety, spacing, farming, or anything else.” Basically, he’s standing up for the terroir of the Compagni Portis vineyard. And I agree: this place is very special.

At a recent tasting of American white wines I had the pleasure of tasting two white blends from the Compagni Portis vineyard. Both wines came from the same vintage, 2010. It’s always fun to taste two wines from the same vineyard, same vintage, but blended and fermented by different winemakers. While the wines were both unique, they share a baseline of aromas and flavors that speaks to the terroir of the Compagni Portis vineyard.

2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Heirloom Compagni Portis (California, Sonoma Valley) 
This wine is fermented with wild yeasts and aged in neutral oak and steel barrels. It’s a light yellow color in the glass. Aromatic intensity is this wine’s game: tons of flowers, peach blossoms, perfume and a gewürztraminer-like combination of fresh citrus and mixed nuts. The palate shows chunky melon and pineapple fruit, white flowers, honey and lychee nut flavors. There’s a lot of tangy acid throughout, and the wine maintains a superb sense of balance. This is a really unique white wine, unlike anything I’ve tasted. The closest comparison I can come up with is a traditional proprietary white blend from Alsace, one of those tangy-rich wines with five or ten white grapes mixed in. But the Bedrock Heirloom white shows a purity of fruit flavors that is quintessentially Californian. The combination of elements is like jazz: there’s a bit of everything in here, it’s chaotic, but somehow it works. Lovely. And a great bargain at $24. By the second day, the wine showed even more nuance and complexity.
92 points

I love the simple yet artistic label on the Arnot-Roberts.
2010 Arnot-Roberts Old Vine White Compagni Portis Vineyard (California, Sonoma Valley) 
Most of the people at our tasting liked this wine a bit more than the 2010 Bedrock Compagni Portis. I was in the minority, but this wine’s quality is undeniable. On the nose: white flowers, honeysuckle, rose petals, pears and tons of perfume. This is truly a beautiful wine to sniff. The palate is fresh and tangy, with green apple, tangerine, wax, tart lemon and perfume flavors. The acid sings all the way through, but there’s a waxy aspect to the wine that gives it great mouthfeel and depth. This white blend is just so damn authentic, a true testament to California’s rich history with white wine. A no-brainer at $25-$30. A blend of riesling, sylvaner, green Hungarian, berger and other varieties, all of which are fermented together.
90 points

If you ever get a chance to taste a white blend from this vineyard, I suggest you take it. You won’t be disappointed.

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