J. Wilkes 2019 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Blanc ($20)
Lovely fresh citrus and floral scents loft from the glass of J. Wilkes’ Santa Maria Valley Pinot Blanc. Clear, pale straw in color, it offers a mix of lime and orange and stone fruit aromas with subtle spring flowers. The nose builds an expectation that the palate satisfies, with juicy but dry, medium-bodied mixed-fruit flavors that follow the nose, framed with moderate 13% alcohol and zippy, structure-building acidity that starts your taste buds working. The wine gains complexity as it warms in the glass, and an intriguing waft of “petrol” minerality joins tangy citrus in a very long finish. Excellent wine. (May 1, 2021)
FOOD MATCH: The winery suggests “cold-water seafood, and anything fried. Fish and chips, raw or charbroiled oysters, scallops, sourdough grilled cheese. Asian food, Korean BBQ or kimchi. We enjoyed it with spaghetti with a bland of garlic, oil, and Parmigiano Reggiano.
WHEN TO DRINK: I’d enjoy it over the next couple of years on a wine rack, maybe five under good cellar conditions.
Wine-Searcher.com’s $20 average U.S. retail matches the price from the winery. It’s a good value for an above-average white in this price range..
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J. Wilkes 2018 Paso Robles Highlands District Lagrein ($50)
J. Wilkes Lagrein shows a very dark, almost blackish-purple color in the glass, typical of the Lagrein grape. Ripe black-plum, black-cherry, and mixed-berry aromas invite a taste, which follows the nose with full, dry cherry-berry fruit framed by firm tannins and food-friendly acidity. Alcohol is listed at 14.6%, but it doesn’t get in the way as berries and plums and intriguing minerality last into a very long finish. (May 8, 2021)
FOOD MATCH: The winery offers specific suggestions: “Beef stew with Herbs-De-Provence, butter risotto with white truffles, pizza, grilled Top Serloin, Brie and other soft cheeses.” We found it excellent with pasta with Marcella Hazan’s Ragù Bolognese.
WHEN TO DRINK: Lagrein is not considered a grape for long aging, but the structure, tannins, and fruit-acid balance in this wine do suggest some potential for cellar evolution over five years or so.
It’s a fine red wine from an interesting variety, but to be honest, the $50 price at the winery is pushing it for me. Wine-Searcher shows a more doable $26 average U.S. retail but lists no current vendors.
Here’s a winery fact sheet on J. Wilkes Lagrein, with a link to a shopping cart.
Learn about Lagrein and find listings for dozens more wines from this variety on this Wine-Searcher link.