“Pleasure is often spoiled by describing it.”…. Stendhal
And there you have it! Chenin Blanc. Describe it? It can be dry or sweet. Light to full bodied. Rich with slow moving tears on the glass or no tears. Compare a Chenin Blanc from South Africa against a Vouvray or a Savennieres (Loire Valley France). Try it against a Quarts De Chaume (also from the Loire) and again against one from California. Same grape. Different wines. Pine Ridge Vineyards makes a best effort in their California blend stating (on the back label): “Our distinctive white blend marries the crisp, honeyed citrus fruit of Chenin Blanc with the plush body, soft floral and juicy peach notes of Viognier for a lush, versatile and delicious wine.”
The blend is 80% Chenin Blanc from grapes grown in Clarksburg, Viognier is from the Lodi appellation. The Chenin was harvested at low-sugar levels to emphasize bright fruit and crispness (acidity) in the finished wine. Balancing this, the Viognier was harvested at higher sugar levels (24 degrees Brix) to incorporate the floral notes and produce a somewhat sweet viscosity in the finished blend. Each varietal was inoculated with its own yeast strain selected to maintain the grape’s fruity character, and fermented and aged in 100% stainless to preserve fruit and freshness without adding secondary notes. No malolactic fermentation. The wine’s body is enhanced from ripe Viognier berries.
For CS (SOMM), WSET and CSW students, all of that is interesting, but I don’t know it brings any pleasure to the table. For that, you’ll need to pour yourself a glass of this wine. The investment in doing so is modest. The SRP is just $16 and I found it on sale for just under $11. In the glass, it presents medium lemon with a clear rim. The Viognier takes the starring role in the play of aroma. In fact, this is one of those wines you almost want to delay tasting just so that you can continue to enjoy its perfume: tropical fruit, white flowers, white peach, ripe star fruit and honeydew melon. Citrus from the Chenin Blanc offers a honeyed character with whispered hints of orange and Meyer lemon. On the palate, it is of medium weight making it a white that is compatible with a wide variety of foods from Thai curries to a frittata. Expect to enjoy a well-integrated symphony of yellow apple and Mandarin orange with pineapple, apricot, sweetened lychee and ripe white peach. A lingering note of white tea adds complexity and citrus bobs along throughout the tasting: initially lemon, but (if you allow the wine to warm) expect notes of lime.
In fact, that’s part of the fun. I recommend serving the wine chilled. Taste. Take notes. But pour another glass and keep it aside to warm a bit. Taste it again and enjoy how the wine presents differently. Doing this will allow you to better pair this wine with food. Easy out? Summer approaches, and this wine is summer’s romance in a glass. Lightly sweet but finishing cleanly, it can be enjoyed alone. If you find yourself at a BYOB Thai restaurant, its sweetness will be a good play against a spicy curry, but it would do well paired also against a spicy Mexican shrimp and avocado tostada. Making brunch? Try this wine with a frittata made with caramelized sweet onions and ricotta. Sushi works well too.
What maybe doesn’t work so well is my description of this wine. How do I accurately put on paper what you experience on your tongue? Every palate is personal and correct for the person possessing it. My advice? Buy a bottle. Taste it. Let me know what you think.
Bottled by Pine Ridge Vineyards
** The 80/20 blend Chenin/Viognier is approximate and for the 2016 vintage. Percentages are adjusted yearly as needed. The 2015 vintage, for example, was 83% Chenin Blanc / 17% Viognier. This a common practice with all blends.
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