Chenin blanc is a grape that rises to a refined pleasure when made like the 2007 Dry Creek Vineyard Clarksburg Chenin Blanc.
In 1970, David Stare packed up his young family, put aside his Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineering degree, and began studying enology at the University of California at Davis. Two years later, he bought 55 acres of farmland in Dry Creek Valley with the dream of making Loire Valley-styled white wines. Stare’s Dry Creek Vineyard was the first new winery in Dry Creek Valley since Prohibition.
I met David Stare during a visit to Sonoma County and Dry Creek Valley wineries circa 1980. He recounted how his farming neighbors had watched as this northeastern-educated young man ignored their advice and uprooted the prune and apricot trees, plowed the soil, planted vines and began making white wines that nobody wanted: chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc. Or so they thought.
Stare had traveled in France’s Loire Valley and had been enamored with the wines from Vouvray, Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre. All three villages are world-famous for their white wines. The latter two are made from sauvignon blanc; Vouvray is produced from chenin blanc. Stare’s drier, lower-alcohol, fruit-filled white wines gained an immediate audience; Dry Creek Valley gained new wineries and became known in the wine world as a great place for sauvignon blanc. Chenin blanc, however, remained David Stare’s Holy Grail.
Stare’s vision of chenin blanc has always been Vouvray’s intoxicating, aromatic and elegant wines. Forgoing Vouvray’s broad palette of dry, off-dry, sweet and sparkling wines, Stare employed his laser-beam focus on Vouvray’s dry version of Chenin Blanc. It was rewarded.
Today, Dry Creek Vineyard is directed by his daughter, Kim, and son-in-law Don Wallace. Joined by winemakers Lisa Forbes and Bill Knuttel — and I suspect a watchful eye from the retired founder — the foursome made another stunning Chenin Blanc with the 2007 Clarksburg bottling.
The source of Dry Creek Vineyard’s chenin blanc is the Clarksburg vineyard at the Wilson Ranch in the Sacramento Delta. The grapes were transported to Dry Creek Vineyard and fermented at a low temperature in stainless steel vats for 35 days.
The result is enchanting floral, melon and apple blossom-like aromas. Delicious honeydew melon, apple, and lemon-lime flavors zigzag across the palate. Like great Vouvray, the 2007 Dry Creek Vineyard Clarksburg Chenin Blanc balances the plethora of aromatics and flavors with a backbone of acidity, keeping the palate fresh and clean. And its Vouvray level of 12.5 percent alcohol respects the grape’s nobility and heritage.
I enjoyed the 2007 Dry Creek Vineyard Clarksburg Chenin Blanc with Tribeca Grill’s sauteed jumbo lump crab cake. Try a glass with steamed asparagus and grated Parmesan cheese, a shrimp tempura roll or a plate of potato gnocchi with caramelized cauliflower and Vidalia onion. And the reasonable price makes a second glass doubly pleasing.
The 2007 Dry Creek Vineyard Clarksburg Chenin Blanc retails for approximately $12.