Please The Palate Wine of the Week: J. Wilkes 2019 Pinot Blanc, Santa Maria Valley AVA

As I indulged my weekly sushi craving, I selected a wine to pair with my dinner. I pulled out a bottle of Pinot Blanc from J. Wilkes Winery in Santa Maria Valley for a perfect pairing. That is why the J. Wilkes 2019 Pinot Blanc, Santa Maria Valley is the Please The Palate wine of the week.

Pinot Blanc is a white wine grape that is a mutation of Pinot Noir. A French grape that is found in Alsace and used to make Crémant d’Alsace, Pinot Blanc is also grown in Germany (Weissburgunder), Italy (Pinot Bianco), Austria, Spain, South Africa, Canada, and California. In California, there are less than 350 acres planted, with the majority planted in Monterey. In Santa Barbara County, there are only eight acres planted, according to the CA 2019 Grape Acreage Report released in 2020.

The Santa Maria Valley AVA was established in 1981. It is a cool region due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the growing season is long and slow. The 900-acre Bien Nacido Vineyard, one of the most famous vineyards in the Central Coast, was planted in 1969 and the first vintage was 1973. The Pinot Blanc is from a small block on the vineyard that was planted in 1973.

J. Wilkes Wines is owned by the Miller family who own Bien Nacido Vineyard. J. Wilkes Wines was launched in 2001 by Jefferson Wilkes, a grape grower and wine salesman at Bien Nacido Vineyards. Wilkes passed away in 2010 and the label was relaunched as a tribute to Jeff’s unwavering love for the Santa Maria Valley. Winemaker Wes Hagen sources fruit from the Santa Maria Valley, Sta. Rita Hills, and Paso Robles Highlands to showcase these AVA wines that show the best of the Central Coast and the diversity of meso-climates.

The J. Wilkes Wines 2019 Pinot Blanc celebrates the distinct terroir of Santa Maria Valley. Sourced from the single block of old, own-rooted vines in the Bien Nacido Vineyard, the grapes are picked at night, pressed cold, and racked off the lees after one or two days. The grapes are fermented and aged in stainless steel. The resulting wine has a bright nose of lemon, lime, apple, nectarine, and melon. On the palate, the wine is full and lush with lively acidity and a mineral finish.

The J. Wilkes 2019 Pinot Blanc retails for $20 and can be enjoyed with so many cuisines. I loved the wine with sushi but it can be enjoyed with any seafood, anything fried, grilled cheese, and even some spicy foods, such as kimchi.