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A Perennial Good Choice
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Sep 22, 2015
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Dry Creek Vineyard, Clarksburg (California) Dry Chenin Blanc 2014 ($12):  Every time I taste Dry Creek Vineyard’s Dry Chenin Blanc, I am impressed.  I admire the wine on three counts: individuality, quality, and value.  Being a Chenin Blanc, it’s unusual for California and as such it’s a refreshing alternative to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.  The wine is very well made, showing the appropriate flavor concentration, depth, palate length and richness of finish to mark it as high quality.  And yet its price is a mere $12.

Although Chenin Blanc is not mainstream for California -- in 2014, the total tonnage of the grape in the state was only six percent that of Chardonnay -- this grape has been a cornerstone of Dry Creek Vineyard’s white wine production since Day One.  The winery first produced Chenin Blanc 43 years ago, in 1972, with grapes grown in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley.  In the early 1980s, the source of grapes shifted to the Clarksburg AVA, southwest of Sacramento, a region that benefits from a cooling influence from San Francisco Bay.

Dry Creek Vineyard’s Chenin Blanc is an un-oaked white wine, fermented in stainless steel without any subsequent malolactic fermentation which would soften its acidity.  The winemaking focus is on expressing the clarity of fruit expression, and to my taste the wine is offers a very true example of Chenin Blanc fruit.

The wine’s aroma is mainly fruity -- melon and white peach -- with delicate notes of fresh herbs.  In your mouth, the wine is medium-bodied and dry, with Chenin Blanc’s characteristic texture suggestive of slight oiliness and the grape’s trademark high acidity.  (The wine contains 6 grams of residual sugar, which is close to dry, and my perception of the taste is in fact dry, due to the high acidity.)  Flavors of melon suggest richness while mineral notes provide a mild contrasting grip, for character.  Despite the high acidity, this is not a lean, crisp wine but rather a broad wine with enlivening crispness at its core.  The long finish combines mineral and fruity notes and shows the wine’s flavor concentration.

Of course this is a terrific warm weather wine, but it makes the transition to autumn cuisine very nicely.  Try it with roasted squash; the natural sweetness of the squash has no difficulty pairing with the rich flavor of the wine.  I like it with gratin potatoes, too, and stuffed baked-potatoes.  Monkfish is a good main-dish match, as is roast chicken or pork roast. With its unusual combination of crisp acidity and broad structure, this wine might surprise you for its versatility on the table.

90 Points