Neely and Varner Wine bottles at the In Pursuit of Balance tasting in NYC, 2/23/2015. Photo: ©2015 Magdalena Rahn

Neely and Varner Wine bottles at the In Pursuit of Balance tasting in NYC. Photo: ©2015 Magdalena Rahn

In the wine world one of the buzzwords of recent years has been “balance.” Balance of acidity, of grape ripeness, of alcohol levels, of flavor profiles. The non-profit organization In Pursuit Of Balance (IPOB) takes the question of balance directly to the vineyards and bottles of California, and on February 23, 2015 presented its 33 member-producers at a day of tastings in New York City.

This was IPOB’s third unified foray to New York, and the first with seminars, with professionals from all over the south and eastern States—and from as far as Scandinavia—flying in to attend. And it was indeed well attended, a who’s-who of the wine industry.

Producers poured their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays to trade members eager to detect differences amongst soil type, ripeness levels, proximity to ocean, vineyard elevation and sun exposure. Many member-producers and industry folk referenced French technique and style, with “Burgundian” being the ultimate qualifier. And while France is often an inspiration, these wines remained undeniably Californian.

Tommy Wenzlau, a certified sommelier and oldest son of Wenzlau Vineyard Founders Cindy & Bill Wenzlau, who assists with East Coast  distribution. Photo: ©2015 Magdalena Rahn

Tommy Wenzlau, a certified sommelier and oldest son of Wenzlau Vineyard Founders Cindy & Bill Wenzlau, who assists with East Coast distribution. Photo: ©2015 Magdalena Rahn

Often referred to as “New California”, a wine term made popular by California-based wine journalist Jon Bonné, such came about as drinkable manifesto against the big, ripe, oaky, plush, powerful wines still generally representative of the New World wine style.

Jennifer Velazquez of Knez Winery. Photo: ©2015 Magdalena Rahn

Jennifer Velazquez of Knez Winery. Photo: ©2015 Magdalena Rahn

Asked what the purpose of participating in IPOB was, Jennifer Velasquez of Knez Winery told Vino247 that it was the “like-mindedness of all the producers, who want to make wines suitable for food and that are built to last”.

Knez’s Demuth Vineyard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley 2012, had brambly aromas, with dark fruits and a clean, full-bodied mouth.

Varner Wine Co-Owner Jim Varner said: “We’ve believed in balance since we began. It’s an asthetic. There’s balance in food, in architecture, in art. For wines as a venture, there needs to be balance. It’s knowing which elements to let complement the others.”

Varner’s wines, which come from Santa Barbara County and the Santa Cruz Mountains, expressed floral, earthy notes in the Pinot Noirs, and sun-touched minerals in the Chardonnays.

Other producers, like Mount Eden Vineyards, Peay, Littorai Wines, Lioco Wine Company and Matthiasson, served as ever-popular stalwarts to the tasting. The tasting saw its highest attendance to date, IPOB said.

Jim Varner, Co-Owner and Co-Founder of Varner Wine. Photo: ©2015 Magdalena Rahn

Jim Varner, Co-Owner and Co-Founder of Varner Wine. Photo: ©2015 Magdalena Rahn

Mary Christie of IPOB told Vino247: “We are so pleased and thankful to have such a wonderful reception as well as persistent demand for the events. This year we expand internationally to host two events in Japan in April and will likely schedule events in other cities abroad in 2016.”

In Pursuit Of Balance includes solely California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. To become one of the 33 members, candidates must submit samples, limited to two Chardonnays and two Pinot Noirs per winery, to the organization’s annual blind tasting. The judges are Jon Bonné, Christie Dufault, Wolfgang Weber, Ehren Jordan, Ian Becker and Rajat Parr (non-voting). The only information received about the wines during the tasting is the vintage and county of origin.

In Pursuit Of Balance was created by Rajat Parr of Domaine de la Côte and Sandhi (both making wines in Santa Rita Hills), and Jasmine Hirsch of Hirsch Vineyards (Sonoma Coast), to celebrate wineries striving to produce balanced Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in California. Its first event was held in San Francisco in 2011.

Wind Gap Wines owners Pax and Pam Mahle. Photo: ©2015 Magdalena Rahn

Wind Gap Wines owners Pax and Pam Mahle. Photo: ©2015 Magdalena Rahn

Perhaps Wind Gap Wines owner Pax Mahle summed up the overall sentiment of the tasting: “This is one of the few [tastings] where I’d like to taste every single wine.”

 

About Author

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Magdalena Rahn is the North America Senior Manager for wine, beer & spirits, at Ubifrance—the French Trade Office, based in New York City. Before moving back to the States in 2010, she spent many years as a journalist and translator in Bulgaria, where she fell in love with the country’s wine, language, music and fermented vegetables. In 2009 she returned to France to study for an MSc in wine management with OIV / Université de Paris X. Views & words herein are her own.

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