It’s another week where I am excited to share a grape I have a fondness for with all of you! Vermentino is commonly a light textured (although some winemakers use methods to create a marginally heavier bodied wine) white grape that originated in Italy, where a majority of it is still produced. The island of Sardinia is where the traditional and more complex versions of the wine made from this variety can be found. It is also grown in Provence in Southern France, where it is blended with other grape varieties like Sauvignon Blanc and Ugni Blanc. In this area, it goes by the name Rolle.
The bottle I chose to taste is one I selected from one of my favorite wineries, Tablas Creek. Tablas Creek Vineyards in Paso Robles,California, started in 1987 as a partnership between a long time wine buyer, Robert Haas, and the Perrin family of the esteemed winery, Château de Beaucastel, in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape portion of the Rhône region. The Perrin family has been running Château de Beaucastel since 1909. Upon entering their partnership, the Perrins and Mr Haas searched for properties whose climate and soil type emulated that of southern France, where Château de Beaucastel is located. In 1989, they purchased a plot of land and began importing vines from the Château. Tablas Creek has become notable for propagating Rhône varietals (especially those of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region) such as Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Roussanne and many more. Tablas Creek has since become a preeminent source of Rhône budwood (wine plant starts) to wineries up and down the western US coast. They are also excellent at cultivating grapes that are more commonly found in blends then making them single variety wines or relatively obscure varieties. When Tablas produces these, the expression of the fruit is impressive and fascinating. In 1993, Tablas planted one the first US Vermentino plants, based on advice from the nurseryman back at the Château. He believed that, despite Vermentino not originating from the Rhône region, the aforementioned soil and climate of the Paso Robles area would be ideal for the plant to flourish. In 2002, Tablas released the first vintage of a single varietal Vermentino.
Vermentino pairs great with lots of simple, easy foods like light seafoods, pasta with fresh herbs, and happens to be one of the very few wines that pairs well with artichokes.Taking all of this into consideration, I chose to pair it with ricotta tomato basil bruschetta, pesto pasta, and steamed artichoke dipped in lemon garlic aioli. The 2020 Tablas Creek Vermentino was a pale lemon color with modest legs that ran down the sides of the glass. The aromas of white grapefruit, lemon rind, with hints of gardenia, honeysuckle, and ripe pear escaped from the glass. Then I tasted it and the notes of lemon zest, white grapefruit, wet stone, salinity, white pear, gardenia and honeysuckle coated my palate. When I snuck sips while prepping dinner, I was in awe of how synergistic the artichoke and aioli was with the Vermentino. On my tongue, the pairing with the wine reminded me of old friends reuniting after years apart. All components had prominent lemon accents. The finish of this pairing was a tango of salinity in both items boosted by the subtle hint of cayenne pepper in the aioli and the faintest sweetness of the honeysuckle. Next, I tried the bruschetta and was also impressed. The acid in the wine matched the acidity in the ricotta while slightly cutting the richness of the whole milk cheese. The basil made the gardenia and honeysuckle notes pop. Finally, I tried the basil penne and again, I was not disappointed. The same collaboration of the basil and floral notes was evident. In addition to that, the nuttiness and salt from the pasta, pesto, and parmesan was brilliant with the stone fruit notes and honeysuckle. Just like that, the bottle of wine managed to vanish! I guess that’s an occupational hazard when attempting to thoroughly analyze so many excellent pairings at the same time!