Los Pinos Ranch Chardonnay: Less Oak,
More Turpentine

Wine from Pittsburgh? Surely you jest. After all, Pittsburgh is Steel City, known for its dominating football teams, brawling blue-collar identity and Primanti's, a famous hangout where the cooks are known to stuff French fries inside their burgers. Of course you would want to wash down such robust fare with a can or three of icy-cold Iron City Beer.

OK. We do jest. While few people know that Pittsburgh is actually quite a bustling center for culture and higher education, even fewer know anything about Pittsburg, Texas, (without the "h") a small town in East Texas about a two-hour drive from Big D near Mount Pleasant. Here, the small town setting suggests an unhurried approach to life where there is plenty of space and a downtown that was designated a Historic Main Street back in 1986. In short, the type of place that is perfect to start a winery, listen to jazz and enjoy delicious tapas. My kind of town.

When I was first given the opportunity to taste Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards' wines, my heart leaped when I learned that they featured unoaked chardonnays. Although the trend has been moving away from the oak in the past decade, still the vast majority of chards that I taste are overly oaked. Some judicious use of oak is fine, but too many winemakers go overboard.

In the tasting glass, I noticed the slight gold color of the wine, a bit on the pale side. The nose reminded me of a sauvignon blanc, more citrus and melon than anything else, and maybe a touch of lime. On the palate was more citrus and tropical fruit and plenty of minerals, but there was also a touch of turpentine, which was a bit off-putting. I had noticed a similar taste when I tried Los Pinos Cabernet Sauvignon, and wonder again if there is something in the soil around the vintners Pittsburg or West Texas vineyards or wherever they source their cab and chard grapes from. I hesitate to suggest pairing possibilities because of this taste, but since Los Pinos has a tapas chef at its winery, that might be worth a try. In sum, a good, fairly simple wine with promise, and I long to splurge at some point for the Chardonnay Reserve to see if there is more of the buttery flavor and smoothness of a truly superb Chard. And, hopefully, less turpentine.

Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards 658 County Road 1334 Pittsburg, Texas 903-855-1769

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Chris Meesey