My first thought was the sarcastic answer, why not Chenin Blanc? But then I thought about it. When I first started in the wine business Chenin Blanc was planted throughout the north coast. But as the popularity of Chardonnay and other varieties grew the acres in Sonoma and Napa started to shrink and so did the amount of wineries producing Chenin. There are very limited plantings in Sonoma/Napa these days, also Monterey, Mendocino, & Santa Barbara counties. We produced a Dry Chenin Blanc when I worked at Kenwood Vineyards, and it was a great wine but like so many other producers Sauvignon Blanc & Chardonnay were dominating the white wine market. So the Chenin Blanc that we received was used as a blending grape in the Vintage White Table wine. So when we started our winery it was a chance to make a wine I enjoyed drinking and to try to pay it the respect that I think it deserves.
Chenin Blanc is thrives in Clarksburg in the California Delta and is still widely planted in other parts of the central valley. Like many grape varieties the quality of the bottled wine depends the farming and the decision of when to harvest the grapes. It is a vigorous, reasonably high-yeilding variety that left unmanaged can dilute the grape’s distinct characteristics. 2011 will mark the 3rd vintage that I will be bottling this incredibly diverse grape variety.
Chenin Blanc is always being called one of the most diverse grape varieties there are. Grown in the Loire Valley in France it is produced in all styles from sparkling wine to desert wines. In South Africa, where it goes by the name of Steen, Chenin Blanc accounts for nearly one third of all grape vines. It is also widely planted in Mexico, South America, Australia and New Zealand. But is used primarily used as a blending grape and varietal bottling’s rarely make it to the US market.
My Dry Chenin Blanc is fermented in stainless steel to preserve the great fruit that the grapes express and then aged in the tank on the lees to integrate the fruit and the acid. Our current release from the 2009 vintage is tasting really good.
So the next time your in your favorite wine shop looking for a bottle of white wines ask about Chenin Blanch