Gamling and McDuck Chenin Blanc, Mangels Ranch, Suisun Valley, California 2016
GRAPE: 100% CHENIN BLANC
Chenin Blanc is most famously known from iconic appellations like Vouvray, and Sauvennières and is the source of so many delicious Crémant de Loire sparkling wines as well. One reason that it has lost considerable ground in popularity in France is because a large portion of it was made with residual sugar, or off-dry. The trend today has shifted towards far more high acid and bone dry wines, but don’t ever be afraid of trying one of the classic styles from a great producer – especially with some age on it. In California, Chenin vines have been disappearing way too fast over the years, and quite frankly that’s not the worst thing. Many of these vines were simply planted in the wrong places. Chenin wants a cooler site and takes a grower with some varietal knowledge- hen those two things occur, that’s when the magic happens.
WINEMAKER: Adam McClary and Gabrielle Shaffer have that cold climate Loire love in their blood, working in the restaurant world together in Minnesota (much colder than the Loire!) and moving on to winemaking – rocking some exceptional Cab Franc and Chenin for over ten years now. Adam’s comic strip label designs make the point that exploring wine should first and foremost a fun experience. Their tasting room in downtown Napa is equally as enjoyable and clearly a ‘counter-expectation’ exploit that is a must do if you find yourself there… inevitably and desperately searching for something great to drink and, frankly, anyplace with some unique character. They produce less than 2,000 cases a year.
TASTING NOTES:Complex Chenin always boasts some of the more fun aromatic descriptors in my book. Let’s just begin with salty cheese rind, beeswax, and ripe guava. I mean, that pretty much runs the gamut, right? Naturally these can be subjective due to the fact that perhaps they live a bit outside the normal rainbow of what you might think of in wine… but that’s the point (and the joy) of this whole exercise isn’t it? Then, of course, the palate is something entirely different. Golden apple, toasty caramel, grapefruit rind and pineapple. The possibilities are endless. I feel like Chenin must be Willie Wonka’s favorite grape… or at least I hope that it was Gene Wilders.
A SEVEN PERCENT STORY
All the Love for all things Loire
For all the unique and somewhat new Seven Percent grapes we’re seeing pop up in California, there are also those that have a long story here as well. The two big guns of the Loire Valley in Northwest France – Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc – are clearly no strangers to our beautiful state. It’s not like we’re not talking about grapes that have a problem producing either quality or volume. Each had its moment of being favored here in greater numbers than they are today, so why is it that California went all in on one Cab and not the other? Or why Sauvignon became the ‘It’ Blanc as opposed to Chenin? I, for one, have a decidedly strong opinion and preference in the opposite direction to what has been chosen as stars in our soils… this should come as no surprise. Thankfully though, there is a strong set of new champions for these varieties here in our soils and, most importantly, they’re making wines that reflect the true nature of the grapes and giving them the opportunity to shine above the rest.