also returning to winemaking styles of yore. Wrath’s Falanghina, for instance, is fermented and aged in clay vessels. Such jars date back to ancient times. At Albatross Ridge, Garrett Bowlus began employing both terracotta and concrete in place of oak or stainless steel. The 2021 Piquette crafted by Russel Joyce at Joyce Wine Company is a return to a peasant-style bottling. Sprite, with a peppy effervescence, it offers a unique bouquet of toasted apple. A sip is like biting into a sliver of tart green apple that has been lightly dusted with fine salt. The drink—piquette is not really a wine—compares to a sour beer, only not as assertive. Piquettes are produced from a second fermentation of pomace, the leftovers of winemaking, rather than juice. In centuries past, these cast-offs were given away to field workers. It packs just around 6-percent alcohol. Other throwback styles have proven trendy. Orange wines (actually white wines left on skins for an extended period) and the sparkling, but unpredictable, pétillant naturel are examples. As the name implies, Stemler observes, “pét-nat is just what nature does”—a wild fermentation caught in the bottle. While two wine varietals may claim most attention in terms of bottling numbers and dollar figures, there is clearly a lot of ferment in the Monterey County wine scene. Scheid has a Petit Manseng. Puma Road bottles a Tannat. There are single varietal Carignans at both Odonata and Seabold Cellars. Among their other oddities, Pierce Ranch offers a Verdelho. “They have so many different varietals,” Stemler points out. “Everything Pierce does is incredible.” Perhaps the most unusual wine varietal in circulation—somewhat—at the moment is Cabernet Pfeffer. Both Kobza Wines and I. Brand produce a version, although winemaker Ryan Kobza identifies the grape as Mourtaou. He is, after all, the one who sent a sample to UC Davis for genetic testing. It’s a complicated story. But it’s also an old and rare vine. Between 10 and 15 acres—different figures have been published—of it exist in California, all in San Benito County. The wine can be as mysterious as the stories around it. I. Brand’s 2021 Cabernet Pfeffer promises rich, hearty fruits on the nose. But there is a delicate floral aroma sifting through the ripe berry note that indicates the wine’s true nature. It is genteel, with a reserved earthiness dabbled by pepper and cooking spices—deep, without being corpulent. Cabernet Pfeffer, or Mourtaou, creates gorgeous wine. It’s one of the many varietals turned out by Monterey County winemakers that belong alongside Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and the other big names. Varietal Pack Pierce ranch Vineyards DANIEL DREIFUSS 32 The Best of Monterey Bay® EAT + DRINK 2023-2024 Voted Monterey County’s BEST FISH & CHIPS Ten years in a row! Come In and See Why! Wharf #2 • Monterey 372-0581 ’22 Layers Sensation Cakes 9 Soledad Dr. Monterey 655 1544 ’22 Thank you for voting us BEST CAKES! and BEST CUPCAKES