J Gris Hits High Mark

I recently renewed my “Anything But Chardonnay Club: membership and discovered an old friend in new circumstances.

One of my favorite California sparkling wine makers is J Vineyards and Winery, the Sonoma Valley producer with a well-earned reputation for top-quality.

The vintage brut and rose from J are beautiful wines that have never disappointed me and the hospitable winery is definitely worth a visit whenever you’re close to Healdsburg.

 “J” Has a Way with Pinot Gris

I’d never given J’s varietal wines much attention. I know they make a decent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but I was unaware of the Pinot Gris.

It’s wonderful. Just the right mix of lovely fruit with a light vein of minerality. I liked the crispness on a warm night alongside an order of crab cakes over mixed greens.

I ordered the 2010 PG ($9/glass) on the recommendation of our waitress at Casa Vino, the Berkeley wine bar and bistro with a comfortable patio and a dog-friendly atmosphere.

The dog-friendly part is important since we have a four-footed companion in the family.

After a 45-minute stroll around sun-drenched Point Isabel with Ruby, a chihuahua/dachshund mix, it was time to relax with a glass of vino.

A quick smartphone search showed Casa Vino was dog-friendly and  just a few minutes away.

ABC Selections

When a cold bottle of the J Pinot Gris couldn’t be located, we ordered a flight of  three ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) wines to pass the time until a new bottle of J could be chilled.

Two were European and good and one was domestic and great.

The 2009 Castelfeder Pinot Grigio ($9/bottle)  is from Italy’s Alto Adige region, not far from the Austrian/Swiss border. This wine showed a bigger shot of minerality than the J. And, it had a crisp edge of sour lemon, which followed through with a softer lemon flower scent on the nose.

The 2009 Reserve Pinot Blanc from Gustave Lorentz in Alsace ($10/glass)  is another sharp-edged white wine. I liked the acid-fruit balance (sour apple?) a lot and found a bit more depth with some interesting slate highlights.

Vina Robles Delivers

The third member of the trio — a four-grape blend from Vina Robles in Paso Robles — was my favorite of the flight.

The 2010 White4  ($8/glass) is made from Vermentino, Verdelho, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc.

I loved the hint of lemon honey on the tongue and the aromatics of tropical fruit. The wine felt full and round in my mouth with just the right edge of acid to keep it balanced.

I also enjoyed the Vina Robles 2009 Red4 ($8/glass). This four-grape blend is made from Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache and Mourvedre.

It’s a supple mouthful of red plummy fruit with some cooking spice highlights. It paired well with a flatbread pizza margherita.

Vina Casa

By-the-glass wines at Vina Casa can be ordered in full (six-ounce) and half (three-ounce) portions. Retail bottle sales are normally twice the by-the-glass price.

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