If you're interested in trying Portuguese or Spanish wines, then the Pierce Ranch tasting room in Monterey is the place to go. They offer an attractive variety of wines, focusing on Portuguese style wines and blends. But you'll find local classics as well.
It's been too long since I've been to Pierce. In fact I brought in a tasting menu card I had from one of their first year of production and showed it to the staff. The gal who was pouring was thrilled to see one of the cards from their earlier years.
The Pierce family story and history is firmly planted in Monterey County. With Portuguese roots, the family is from Salinas. Josh is third generation, and owner, and Sarah Harris is the wine maker. The land for the vineyard was available and purchased at the Southern end of the Salinas Valley in 2001, the tasting room opened a few years later, resulting in their first vintage release in 2005.
So what is it about Portuguese wines? The wines are engaging and often lighter in body, softer, and sometimes lighter in flavor than expected, but definitely not watery. The pleasure of the wines is in their unfolding of flavors and layers. Don't expect a California explosion at once. They don't smack you in the head. You get to slow down and let the flavors open up. Look for a deft uniqueness in the wines.
The Verdelhos (white) from Portugal are smooth with a pleasing layer of tartness from the fruit forward apple and stone fruits. The 2015 Albarino (a white wine) was grown from a cutting from Spain.
With a clever and tasty twist, the 2012 Albarino Sur Lie is bottled with the yeast (not filtered out.) You may see this as Sur Lees in our English vernacular. Pierce Ranch offers this as a tasting to guests who are typically Chardonnay fans. But be ready to be converted. It's buttery and creamy from the lees, giving it flavors of brioche. It has a richness to it, but is refreshing at the same time from the citrus and minerality.
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