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Bianchi Winery Pinot Noir

The Bianchi family has a winegrowing tradition dating back to 1974, when they produced wines from California’s Central Valley. In 2000, Glenn Bianchi purchased 40 acres of vineyards on the east side of Paso Robles and built a beautiful winery and hospitality center on the property. The Paso Robles area has become widely known for the warm-climate grapes that thrive there, but Pinot Noir has only prospered in the western reaches of the Paso Robles AVA, close to the maritime influence of the Pacific Ocean. To produce an ultra-premium Pinot Noir as part of Bianchi Winery’s Signature Selection lineup of wines from purchased grapes, Glenn Bianchi sought out grapes from the Encell Vineyard at the base of York Mountain in the western Paso Robles area. A second bottling uses grapes sourced from the Garey Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley. Garey Vineyard is located on Garey Road, south of the city of Santa Maria and close to Bien Nacido Vineyard. Originally this vineyard was a Mondavi experimental planting and contains multiple clones. For the Bianchi Pinot Noir, low-yielding clone 777 was chosen from the vineyard.

I spoke with Tom Lane, the winemaker at Bianchi. Tom is a native of Pleasanton, California with 22 years of winemaking under his belt. He grew up playing in abandoned wineries and later helped local home winemakers make their Zinfandel wines. His educational background is quite impressive with a BS degree in biology and chemistry from Chico State, a MS degree in biology from Kansas State, and graduate studies in botany at Ohio State University. He eventually arrived at University of California Davis where he studied enology and did research on the aromatic compounds among twenty clones of Pinot Noir. His winemaking career began at Navarro Vineyards in 1985 and progressed to Concannon before arriving at Bianchi. He has won numerous prestigious awards including Dan Berger Winemaker of the Year in 1997 and Jerry Mead Winemaker of the Year in 1996.

I tried to find out Tom’s secret because the 2005 Pinot Noir he crafted was very impressive. There was really nothing unusual except that he emphasized the good fruit he was able to work with. He used a little whole cluster, pre-fermentation cold soak, and employed Italian punch down tanks for submerging the cap. About 1/3 new French oak, tight grained with medium toast, was used for aging and the wine was coopered for a little over a year.

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2005 Bianchi Signature Selection Garey Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $25. · This wine wows you from start to finish. Great scent of fresh, ripe strawberries, raspberries and brown spice. Lovely deep flavors of strawberry jam, Damsel plums, vanilla, root beer, toast and spice. Nice full mouth feel without flabbiness. Balance is spot on. A generous and fruity Pinot that is everything one could hope for. Share this one with your lover.

Bianchi Winery & Tasting Room is located at 3380 Branch Road, Paso Robles. The phone is 808-226- 9922. The wines are sold through the website at www.bianchiwine.com. The 2005 Bianchi Encell Vineyard York Mountain Pinot Noir is also available (not tasted, $28). The tasting room is open from 11-5 daily. A vineyard house on the property is for rent to those visiting the Paso Robles area.

Update: I just returned from the Pinot Summit in San Francisco. I blind tasted the final 39 winning wines and picked the Bianchi Pinot Noir as one of my top two wines! Nice palate vindication.

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