Chenin Blanc is a light-bodied, dry white wine that’s perfect in the spring and summer.
Chenin Blanc goes well with sushi, Mediterranean cuisine and hearty fare like veal. The variety is widely planted in South Africa and the Loire Valley in France, and even has found its place in California.
Chenin Blanc is the primary white wine grape grown in the Clarksburg American Viticultural Area near Sacramento. If you’re not familiar with Chenin Blanc or equate it with the sweet stuff your parents used to drink, take the beautiful drive along the Sacramento River through Walnut Grove and Locke (stop at Al the Wop’s for a cheeseburger) to the Old Sugar Mill. There, you’ll find 11 tasting rooms under one roof, some offering nice examples of one of the world’s most versatile wine grapes that can be made into dry, off-dry, sweet or sparkling wine.Rendez-vous Winery’s 2014 Chenin Blanc ($18) won double gold and best of region at the 2016 California State Fair. The wine has an almost clear core that deepens to light gold near the rim. The nose is clean and fresh. There’s a pleasant floral note and even a little damp concrete. The initial attack is off-dry, but the finish is crisp, clean and dry. The flavors are tropical and citrus with ripe honeydew melon and a mineral undertone.
Rendez-vous Winery has been at the Old Sugar Mill for about five years. All of the fruit in its eclectic lineup hails from Clarksburg, home to more than 35 varietals. Check out the Rendez-vous 2016 Grenache Rose ($19), another double gold and best of region winner at the 2016 California State Fair. The wine has a faint, pinkish hue with a flinty nose and subtle floral and strawberry components. The flavors match the aromas. The finish is slightly sweet, though the wine is dry, light-bodied and refreshing.Heringer Estates’ 2015 Chenin Blanc ($16) won double gold at the 2016 California State Fair. This wine hits the mark, because minerals and dry stones are at the forefront and the fruit takes on more of a supporting role. Gold flecks along the rim twinkle when the glass is held up to the light, making one think of prospectors striking it rich in the Sierras. Believe it or not, fresh-popped popcorn comes through on the nose. Dry, light-bodied, high acid.
Heringer Estates boasts six generations of grape growing know-how. Michael Heringer took the reins and expanded the family business from primarily growing Chardonnay to some 20 varietals, with Petite Sirah, Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon and Teroldego serving as the core varieties. Heringer Estates wines also are 100 percent Clarksburg.
When you go, try the 2013 Heringer Nebbiolo ($27). Does it measure up to a Barolo or Barbaresco from Piedmont, Italy? Not quite. But Heringer’s Nebbiolo has elegance and the firm tannic grip Barolo and Barbaresco lovers love, just not to the same degree. Roses, white pepper and cherry-covered concrete are on the nose with copper, cherry and strawberry on the palate. It’s a nicely integrated, well-balanced wine.
Chenin Blanc is a worthy drawing card to Clarksburg. But there are other interesting wines to try.