The grape is grown most widely in the Picpoul de Pinet appellation near the Mediterranean Sea in France’s Languedoc region. There, it produces light, saline, and savory wines that are made for pairing with fish and shellfish.
Those same qualities are the foundation of Bonny Doon’s 2020 “Beeswax Vineyard” Picpoul from the Arroyo Seco AVA in Monterey County on California’s Central Coast. Priced at $15 or so, this is one of the more interesting white wine values you’ll find from California. It’s a charming and delicate wine, a kind of David to all those Chardonnay Goliaths.
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When I opened it, it was far too cold and unable to reveal itself, providing a textbook example of how not to drink white wines if you really want to taste them. As it warmed a bit, its beauty began to emerge — apricot, grapefruit, and orange blossom aromas and tastes accented by mineral and herbal notes, all supported by lively acidity and a full and lingering mouthfeel that belies its modest 12.5 percent ABV.
Like all Picpouls, Bonny Doon’s wine demands to be poured with fish. This bottle was a perfect pairing for grey sole fillets sprinkled lightly with dried herbs and white pepper, dabbed with butter, and placed under a broiler for a few minutes.
Grahm has never followed trends, becoming an early champion of Syrah, Grenache, and other southern French varieties, and holding a wake-like “Death of the Cork” dinner some years ago to announce Bonny Doon’s move to screw caps on all of its wines. Though he sold the winery a year or so ago after almost four decades, he remains involved.
His lovely Picpoul is a nice symbol of the man who marches to his own beat while giving us wines that are always worth exploring — and just as fun to talk about.