14 Jul Please The Palate Wine of the Week: Tolenas Winery 2020 Eclipse White Pinot Noir, Suisun Valley
Pinot Noir is the most romanticized red wine in the world. There may not be any other grape that has reached the level of mystery, awe, or mythology than the Pinot Noir grape. Pinot Noir can make red wine that is silky, sexy, fruity, bold and complex. It is also commonly made into a rosé wine, as well as into a sparkling wine! But Pinot Noir can also made into a white wine. While it is common to vinify white for a Blanc de Noirs Champagne, it is less common to vinify Pinot Noir into a still white wine. White Pinot Noir is not impossible to find, but it is hard to find. Luckily, I found the Tolenas Winery 2020 Eclipse White Pinot Noir, the Please The Palate wine of the week.
Tolenas Winery is located in the Suisun Valley in northern California. Located on the backside of Napa Valley, the Suisun Valley was established in 1982 and is one of the oldest AVA’s in California. Suisun Valley is surrounded by two mountain ranges and is considered a Mediterranean climate. Days are warm but there is a marine influence of cool winds coming in from the San Pablo and Suisun Bays. There are more than 28 grapes varieties grown in the Suisun Valley and with the warm climate, grapes such as Petit Sirah, Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon thrive there. But, in the southern part of the Suisun Valley, close to the Pablo Bay, even Pinot Noir can be grown.
Tolenas Winery was started in 2015 by Lisa Tenbrink Howard and her husband Cliff. Lisa’s parents first bought property in the Suisun Valley in 1982. The Tenbrink family farms is 10,000 acres, across three distinct climate zones in the Suisun Valley. While it is warmer in the “upper valley” and “middle valley”, the “lower valley” is where the Pinot Noir is planted. It is windy and the coolest portion of the district and a study showed it to be similar to Carneros.
The Pinot Noir grown by the Tenbrinks was sold to the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. But, in 2017, during the American eclipse, Lisa decided to keep some of the Pinot Noir and made her first vintage of white Pinot Noir. And, she has been doing it every year since.
The grapes are picked and whole cluster pressed immediately. This lightly pressed juice is fermented slow and cold in 100% stainless steel. The result is a clear wine with a touch of pale pink. The wine has aromas of strawberries, cherries, white nectarine, and grapefruit, with a touch of watermelon. It has a velvety texture and a lovely acidity that lingers in the mouth. The wine is fresh with bright acidity but has the body to stand up to foods like sushi, fish or chicken.
The Tolenas 2020 Eclipse Pinot Noir, from the Suisun Valley retails for $35. You can buy it online at Tolenas Wine or perhaps next time you take a trip to Napa, head to the back side and visit the Suisun Valley.