Tracie and I both really enjoyed this Vermentino (above) from Troon Vineyard in Oregon.
My longtime friend Craig Camp, the estate’s general manager, had sent me a flight of the property’s wine in exchange for some consulting I did for him.
From San Diego county to southern Oregon, I’ve tasted some great wines made from Vermentino over the last 12 months. And this bottle got me thinking: where American Pinot Grigio has nearly always struck me as uninspired, west coast Vermentino can really deliver in terms of varietal expression, food-friendly drinkability, and approachable cost (according to WineSearcher this wine should retail for around $15).
Historically, American viticulture has always been driven by winemakers’ desire of the Other (apologies for the post-modern speak). The patricians who founded Napa Valley drank Bordeaux and Burgundy like their British counterparts. And so they planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay even though those may not have been the ideal varieties to grow there.
The same could be said of the American Pinot Grigio mania of the 2000s.
Francis Ford Coppola doesn’t grow Pinot Grigio in California because it’s the ideal grape to grow there. He grows it because he and his company think that’s what Americans want to drink (they blend it with Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc according to the winery’s website).
As Tracie and I happily polished off Craig’s Vermentino over the course of two nights (it was still super fresh on night two, btw), I couldn’t help but think: could Vermentino be the white grape that California and Oregon winemakers have been waiting for?
The wine had a wonderful buoyant character thanks to its zippy acidity and a classic citrus note, typical of Vermentino when handled properly. I remembered a Vermentino I had tasted with a San Diego grower last year and how proud he was of its continuity with Vermentino farmed in Sardinia. That one was delicious and affordable, too.
Vermentino: it’s the new — or at least it should be the new — Pinot Grigio!
In other news…
A lot of folks asked me about the below photo, which I shared yesterday on my Instagram.
That cast-iron skillet belonged to Tracie’s maternal grandmother, Georgia Ann, our oldest daughter’s namesake.
She faced severe economic challenges over the course of her lifetime yet she raised a large brood of happy and healthy Texans. And by all accounts, she could cook like nobody’s business.
We use that pan nearly every day at our house, from frying bacon in the morning to pan-fired chicken, pork chops, and steaks at night. It’s so well-seasoned that you barely need to salt the meat. And man, I’ve never had a better grilled cheese sandwich than the ones I’ve turned out with that pan.
Last night’s blackened chicken was the easiest thing to make: I simply salted the split breasts and added them to the pan without any fat after I had let the skillet heat properly over low heat; aside from turning the meat, I didn’t have to do anything else. It made for a great pairing with the Vermentino.
I’m constantly amazed at how similar our lives have been. I too grew up on So Cal, attended UCLA (although many years prior to your years there) and relocated to NJ following college. I eventually found my way in to the wine biz after a long stint in pharmaceuticals, and met Craig in Piedmont in 2004 (if memory serves me correctly). I now live in Florida, and suffer from the same affliction of not having access to smaller, family run estates because of the domination of SWS! I’ll try to get my hands on a bottle of Craig’s Vermentino.
Looks like we live on exactly the opposite sides of the country now Doug. Would be great to see you again if you ever get out here. I don’t make it to Florida much because of SWS there is not much opportunity for small wineries in that market.
I’ll stay in touch.
so glad you guys connected through the blog! That’s awesome. :)
Doug, we need to figure out how to connect and share a bottle of wine! I bet my older brother was at U.C.L.A. when you were there. I was there (with many years in Italy in between) from 1985 to 1997 (all three degrees). Florida is a TOUGH state for wine… It always amazes me how the Republican-dominated states are always the most restrictive (Texas and Florida are so similar in this; free market attitudes and values that vanish when it comes to wine distribution).
Jeremy, I was there from fall 1964 through the spring trimester 1969 – Chemistry major. Would love to meet personally, as I love your wine commentary, and I’m a huge Italian wine fan. Maybe in Oregon with Craig!
So glad you enjoyed the wine! I believe our granitic soils and climate here in Southern Oregon are ideal for vermentino. Hope you can visit one of these days!
Thanks again for sharing the wines. We still to taste all of them (we will). And I’ve got some big news re. Oregon coming up! You’ll be seeing me sooner than you think.
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