Wine Review: Birichino Pinot Noir Antle Vineyard 2014 and Malvasia Bianca Monterey 2016

birichinoFounded in 2008 by Alex Krause and John Locke, this Santa Cruz winery with a downtown tasting room makes interesting, low-intervention wines that sometimes fly under the banner of “natural” although they use a bit of sulfur to protect the wine. They look for old vineyards that are well farmed with the balance already in the grapes said Alex.

This Pinot Noir from the hot, Antle Vineyard in the Chalone AVA has a gorgeous nose—raspberry,  rose, clove, and wet stone with a touch of wild herbs. In the mouth it opens with taut, top note tension giving the wine energy right from the start. Light bodied but quite firm and sinewy, the tannins enter early giving the wine expansion as the dynamic finish launches. The finesse is on the finish which becomes playful oscillating between mineral notes and bristly textures.

Lean intensity, acerbic and tense yet engaging and playful. Finding music that was playful,  light on its feet but lean and tough was a challenge. Bonnie Raitt’s Good Man, Good Woman came through

Technical notes:  18 months in used French oak and demi-muids, sulfur added at bottling and after malo. A mix of Heritage Swan and Chalone clones, on granite and limestone soils.

Score: 91 Price: $40 Alc: 13%  Purchase Here

Malvasia Bianca

This is the wine that launched Birichino. It’s their only wine harvested by machines to crack the skins and the juice is left on the skins overnight so it’s a wine on its way to orange.

Another expressive nose. That’s a theme here. Aromas of lemon, apricot, white flowers, mint and hints of honey, are pretty and alluring. But don’t be fooled.

On the palate it’s angular up front showing grapefruit, but acquires a lovely glycerin texture midpalate keeping the surging acidity in check.  Medium weight with a soft, smooth underbelly, only to reveal a tide of bitterness, an emergent diorama of ruin at the end of the midpalate. The finish is textured, chalky, but with that layer of glycerin providing contrast. An undercurrent of apricot surfaces to play with with the bitter notes.  A distinctive, multi dimensional wine, sarcastic with its pretty nose and bitter hints on the palate, a mercurial chameleon, flamboyant, whimsical and cruel. Its Bohemian Rhapsody.

Score: 92 Price: $17     Alc: 13%  Purchase Here

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