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: 95 points "The 2018 White Hildegard Estate is an unusual blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Aligoté meant to recreate Burgundy's fabled Charlemagne vineyard in Medieval times. Bright and finely cut, Hildegard shows another side to Jim Clendenen's magic touch. Lemon peel, white flowers, white pepper and crushed rocks give the 2018 a striking aromatic top register to match its mid-weight personality. In a word: sublime." - Antonio Galloni
Score: 94 "Based on 55% Pinot Gris, 40% Pinot Blanc, and 5% Aligote, the 2018 Hildegard Estate White Blend comes mostly from the Bien Nacido Vineyard and was barrel fermented and aged 18 months in 66% new French oak. It offers a Burgundian bouquet of spiced orchard fruits, brioche, honeysuckle, and spicy oak to go with a beautifully textured, medium-bodied, elegant style on the palate. It shows a touch of nuttiness with time in the glass and has bright yet integrated acidity as well as a great finish. I always love this wine, and the 2018 is no exception."
Wine Enthusiast Magazine
Score: 93/Editor's Choice "The white Burgundian blend is a lost, or perhaps never found, art in the New World, but Jim Clendenen's blend of 55% Pinot Gris, 40% Pinot Blanc and 5% Aligoté always makes one wonder why. Aromas of freshly squeezed lemon, honeysuckle, grapefruit peel, Asian pear and light pecan lead into a texturally taut palate that blends brisk citrus and warm, salty flavors seamlessly." - MATT KETTMANN
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
Score: 91 points "The 2018 Hildegard opens with flint and crushed stone notes over a core of toasty white peaches and floral perfume. The medium-bodied palate is toasty and perfumed with uplifting yeasty touches and bright freshness, finishing long and ultra perfumed. Interesting and yummy! 112 cases were made."