Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Naked and Peppy -- Pepi Winery

An apt description.

Another round of thanks to Stacey at Balzac for sending along a set of samples from Pepi Winery, one of the sub-labels of O’Neill Vintners – makers of Moscato Allegro, Camelot, and Tin Roof.

Pepi, taglined as “A True California Original,” makes whites only. They do a chardonnay, a pinot grigio, a sauvignon blanc, and a blend of chenin blanc & viognier. The grapes for these wines are sourced from all over California – largely from cool-climate areas in the state. According to their trade info, Pepi was one of the first wines in California to be bottled with a Stelvin closure, better known as a quality screwcap. (I am a long-time unabashed fan of Stelvined-up wines, as many of you know.)

Pepi wines are all in the $10 price range. I received a sample of each of their offerings from the 2011 vintage. How’d they work out?

Pepi 2011 Sauvignon Blanc – “Very pleasant” was underlined on my notes for this one. It kicks off with a light nose of peach blossoms. There’s a zippy acidity alongside some very friendly peach and pear flavors. The finish is quick and lemony. I’d put this in the fridge the night before and didn’t get to it when I thought I would. Make sure you let it warm up a bit if you’ve got it fridge-cold. Drunk too cold, it loses the fruit and becomes and acid ball. I found it to be nicely food-friendly as well. It held up to a honey-jalapeno glaze on some chicken breasts. Consensus was that this was a good “everything wine” – a bottle that’s stashable for almost any everyday meal or occasion.

Pepi 2011 Chardonnay –I don’t drink a lot of California chardonnay. I’m always a little nervous when I open one. California chards tend to be big oak/big butter, unless they’re marketed as “unoaked,” which means that the acidity has been cranked to the point where you might think you’ve opened lemon juice. Ol’ Pepi surprised me with its balance. The nose is straight-up honey and apples. My first impression was slightly tart apple with just a hint of oak in the background. There’s a wee bit of cream on the finish, but it’s largely more fruit with a good balance of soft oak and lemon peel. I liked this about as well as I have a California chardonnay at this price point. Went nicely with roasted chicken and sautéed veggies, as well. Solid and workable.

Pepi 2011 Pinot Grigio – A light sipper that was the least memorable of the four. It’s by far the lightest of the wines although, to its credit, it’s not as flimsy as many pinot grigios. There’s nothing overly fancy here. Mild acidity, very light nose, and basic citrus flavors. We opened this one next to some fish tacos and a mild salsa. Anything with a stronger flavor would probably run this one over. I figure it for a good picnic wine, too.

Pepi 2011 Chenin Blanc/Viognier – When my notes say a wine tastes like a fuzzy navel, ordinarily that wouldn’t be a good thing. Imagine those basic peach and citrus flavors with the sugar dialed way back, and you’ve got the basic idea of this very drinkable, surprisingly complex wine. The chenin cuts the “oily” texture often found in inexpensive viognier without killing the trademark floral fragrance, and the viognier takes the edge off what can be challenging chenin blanc acidity. All in all, I found this to be a harmonious, bold, fruity white that rattled nicely off a “hobo pack” of cod loin, a bunch of herbs, garlic, and garden tomatoes & peppers. I’d certainly pick this one up again – especially as the weather is cooling a bit.

All in all, I thought this was a solid set of nicely-priced whites well worth trying. Nice work.

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