We started making Hildegard in 1998. The Pinot Gris planted next to the winery (Block 12 of Bien Nacido Vineyard) was amazing. The yields were small and the grapes were intense. The wine made from this Pinot Gris was more like a Burgundian Pinot Gris or dry Alsatian Pinot Gris than a light, insipid Pinot Grigio style. This rich oily Pinot Gris, blended well with the flinty minerality of Pinot Blanc and the mouth watering acidity from the Aligoté. These three lesser known Burgundian white grapes were aged for two years in new French oak barrels, blended and then released with the name Hildegard. Now that is Crazy!
The name Hildegard is a salute to the history of Burgundy and to her husband the King of the Franks, Charlemagne. During his rule in the early 800s the importance of wine and viticulture exploded. The Catholic Church and Charlemagne ruled most of Europe and both were interested in wine and viticulture. The Church needed wine for the Eucharist and under Charlemagne more and more vineyards were planted in Burgundy. Charlemagne brought civilization and order back after the dark ages. Part of this rebirth was wine production.
A wine named after an Empress has to be exquisite. This distinctive blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Aligoté is barrel fermented and gets extra barrel and bottle time. The barrels for this program are all new Francois Frères French oak. Combining a unique blend with long term barrel aging made something special. The lovely aroma of vanillin and hazelnuts from the oak and the mouth-coating richness makes for a wine that seems like a top-notch Chardonnay. The fruit profile is more melony than Chardonnay and the aromas are more flowery than Chardonnay. Food matches that work with Chardonnay would work fine with Hildegard.
Score 94 points Antonio Galloni's Vinous:
"The 2013 White Hildegard Estate is Jim Clendenen's Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Aligoté blend meant to replicate the original varietal composition in Corton-Charlemagne. Lemon confit, white pepper, orchard fruit, jasmine and orange blossom meld together in a rich, unctuous, yet mid-weight wine endowed with magnificent class and personality. The flavors are bright, fresh and beautifully delineated. Above all else, the Hildegard is a wine of striking texture."