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.
Antonio Galloni's Vinous
Score: 94 points "The 2017 Hildegard Estate White, Jim Clendenen's Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc/Aligote field blend, is impeccable in its balance. Tropical notes and a kiss of new French oak add an exotic flair to Pinot Gris/Blanc orchard fruit, lemon confit and floral notes. The 100% new oak is beautifully integrated, but it is the wine's overall balance that really stands out. In 2017, the Hildegard is naturally a bit richer than it usually is, and yet all the elements are very nicely woven together. It remains one of the most unique and compelling wines of Santa Barbara." - Antonio Galloni
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
Score: 91 points "A blend of 50% Pinot Gris, 40% Pinot Blanc and 10% Aligote, the 2017 Hildegard has a fresh nose of quince, white blossoms, hay bale and soft nutty scents plus sliced green pear and baker's yeast. Medium-bodied, it has a good core of fruits and is broad and textured, finishing long. 675 cases produced."
Score: 91 "The 2017 Hildegard checks in as a barrel-fermented blend of 50% Pinot Gris, 40% Pinot Blanc, and 10% Aligote that was aged 18 months in new French oak. If reveals a light gold color as well as a terrific bouquet of orchard fruits, toasted bread, spice, honeysuckle, and flowers. With good richness, medium-body, and terrific balance, it has bright acidity yet still comes across as rich and textured. Blind I'd have guessed Sonoma Coast Chardonnay."