The bright acidity of a traditionally uncomplicated Pinot Grigio makes it an easy choice for the first glass of the evening for many folks, and it would make sense for a brand that hangs its hat on being uncomplicated to put its stamp on that particular varietal.
Yet, Bread & Butter Wines didn’t release its first Pinot Grigio until 2022, kicking things off with an announcement that heralded the arrival of its inaugural vintage.
Linda Trotta, head winemaker for the Napa Valley-based winery, called the wine a natural fit for Bread & Butter’s portfolio.
“Adding Pinot Grigio to our portfolio was a strategic but easy decision,” said Trotta, who holds a degree in Enology from UC Davis. “When you think about the Bread & Butter portfolio, we offer uncomplicated and straightforward wines to the consumer. As part of this approach, we also want to be able to offer something for everyone.
“The addition of Pinot Grigio rounded out the portfolio in a unique but simple way. Pinot Grigio has its own amazing taste profile that I love and consumers love, so it was a natural fit.”
Trotta said there were “gazillions” of considerations that had to be made before introducing the new variety to Bread & Butter’s widely distributed, well-established brand portfolio.
“With Bread & Butter, there is a stylistic consistency that runs through all of the wines, whether they are oaked or unoaked,” she said. “We start with a focus on simplicity: purity of fruit, balance, and how the wine finishes. Then we examine where there are opportunities to express these consistencies.”
The first Bread & Butter wines that were released — Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon — have very distinctive oak signatures that play a big part in the appeal of these wines, Trotta explained. It’s a far cry from the bright, clean finish of a Pinot Grigio.
But a previously released varietal helped provide the blueprint for Bread & Butter’s latest offering.
“Our first unoaked wine that we introduced was Rosé and so the challenge was making a Bread & Butter wine without the oak character that the consumer was already accustomed to,” Trotta said. “We went to work creating ways to both incorporate some of the best elements of the varietal and also create a wine that would be uniquely Bread & Butter that would stand above the competition.
“It took a lot of time, trial and error, tasting, and re-tasting to arrive at our goal. It was a challenging and fun process. The same process took place with Pinot Grigio — an examination of what consumers like in California Pinot Grigio, and then (determining how) we make it the Bread & Butter way.”
Its quaffable nature may make it seem like an uncomplicated wine to produce, but Trotta said there were best practices to observe to optimize the final product.
Devastating mistakes winemakers might make include judging the harvest timing, she said.
“Too early, and the wine’s acidity is very harsh and overwhelming; too late and the fruit character loses its freshness and typicity,” she said.
The Pinot Grigio’s pigmented skins create another challenge for winemakers.
“This means that the skins can impart both color and astringency to the wine,” she said.” We monitor this carefully to ensure that the wine is clear and not bitter when it goes into the bottle.
“We worked to retain the natural acidity that is a signature of Pinot Grigio in a way that is lively but not bracing. It is also important to us that the wine has a long, fresh finish with a juicy, mouth-watering sensation. All of this begins with making picking decisions at the right point of ripeness, when the fruit has reached optimal balance between acidity, sugar, and flavors development.”
Getting the right grapes for the style, quality and price point (suggested retail price is $15.99) of the wine is the most important step in the winemaking process, Trotta added.
“Over the years, we have developed strong relationships with grape growers throughout California,” she said. “It is through these strategic relationships that we are able to access fruit of the quality that we need.”