After months of no winery visits, we finally got out and about. But, something about us had changed. While we still love red wine A LOT, we have been drinking mostly whites during our stay at home and espousing our newfound “healthier diet and lighter wine to go with it” lifestyle to anyone who will listen.
It was now time to put our money where are our mouths are.
We first tasted Monochrome at the 2018 Garagiste Festival in Santa Monica. At that time, Michael wrote: I’m just going to say it: “It takes balls to make only white wine in red wine country. Since I was focusing primarily on reds I almost skipped it. Fortunately, Karen insisted I try the wines. As usual…um, always…she was right. Especially loved the 2016 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Marsanne as well as the 2016 blend of Marsanne and Chardonnay. They are pouring in Paso’s Tin City now and I highly recommend you check them out. We intend to.”
Three years later [!], we finally did.
If there was any doubt, Michael comments above were meant as a compliment, not an insult. Paso Robles is known for its big red wines and many (but certainly not all) of the white wines have the reputation of being viewed as an afterthought for that member of a tasting group that just “doesn’t like reds.”
Dave McGee is changing that, one wine-drinker at a time. He founded Monochrome in 2016 after a rich and varied career in industries such as radar design, stealth technology and neuroradiology. He completed the online UC Davis winemaking program and helped with the winemaking at Villa Creek and Alta Colina before making the jump to starting his winery, focusing entirely on white wine.
Taking a contrarian approach to the rest of the region, Dave and consulting winemaker Riley Hubbard focus on making only “white wines with depth, layers and complexity…” Sourcing grapes from Santa Barbara County on the south to Santa Cruz on the north (the three-hour-by-truck rule), they break each variety into small batches and use different fermentation and aging techniques for each, resulting in wines that really live up to the expression of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
Some notes on the wines we tasted:
2019 “Neither Here Nor There” is a blend of 56% Chenin Blanc from Jurassic Park Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley and 44% Sauvignon Blanc from the McGinley Vineyard in Happy Canyon. We picked up lemon notes and long finish. This wine has a really solid backbone.
2018 “Analog In A Digital Age” is 74% Marsanne from Camp 4 Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, 17% Chenin Blanc from G2 Vineyard in the Willow Creek district of Paso Robles and 9% Viognier from Shokrian Vineyard in Santa Barbara County. The wine spent nine months in amphora. There was a really nice minerality on the finish.
2018 “Sense Of Out Of Place” – this blend of 53% Sauvignon Blanc from McGinley Vineyard and 47% Chardonnay from Donnachadh Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills has a medium to long finish and pretty citrus/tangerine notes on the nose.
2018 “Wall Of Sound” is 68% Roussanne from Zaca Mesa Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley and 32% Viognier from Shokrian Vineyard. This is a very rich classic Rhone blend.
2017 “Blasphemy” is an unusual blend of 80% Chardonnay from Donnachadh Vineyard and 20% Chenin Blanc from Jurassic Park Vineyard. It has a rich golden corn color, and is bright and rich, with a perceived sweetness [as it is 100% dry].
2019 “X-3” – the blend is 49% Roussanne from Zaca Mesa Vineyard, 37% Viognier from Plum Orchard Tree Lane Vineyard in Paso’s Templeton Gap and 14% Grenache Blanc from the G2 Vineyard. Some of this classic Rhone blend goes through the “death and resurrection” method wherein the juice is hyper oxidized and then allowed to come back to life. The wine has a very full mouth feel with citrus lemon notes and a medium to long finish
2020 “Barrel Distortion” – 94% Albarino from Plum Orchard Lane Vineyard, 6% Gewurtzraminer from Paraiso Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands. Very bright with smooth buttery notes.
You may have noticed an overriding theme here. These are serious, complex wines. A lot of thought and care went into making them and the approach to drinking them should follow suit. Monochrome is raising the bar for what white wines can be. Check them out in Paso Robles’s Tin City.
3075 Blue Rock Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446
Michael and Karen Perlis have been pursuing their passion for wine for more than 30 years. They have had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show them the way and after a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as they possibly could, they had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Michael and Karen do their best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers.