In an enological jungle of malolactic fermentations and esoteric oak it is nice to know that there is a clearing for a clean, fresh wine at a modest price that will remind you of the simple pleasure of biting into a ripe, juicy pear. Chenin Blanc is the third most widely planted grape in California but sadly most of it has been planted where it is way too hot. Navarro's Chenin Blanc is coaxed into perfection on a chilly bench above the Russian River where morning fog ensures that the grapes' natural tartness won't be blunted. Despite the wine's straightforward flavors the grape is not all that easy to grow in a cool climate.
We prefer our Chenin as they do in Anjou, Touraine and Saumur where up to 20% Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay can be added to "complete" the wine. In our morning tastings we found that a 10% Chardonnay addition in this bottling augmented the pear flavors and 10% Sauvignon Blanc added a note of fresh spring herbs.
John and Michelle Young pruning their Chenin Blanc vines. Chenin is the most famous grape in the Loire, especially in the nippy vineyards around Vouvray and Anjou.
The variety is notoriously thin-skinned making it susceptible to bunch rot in the morning fog and sunburn in the afternoon heat. For decades John Young has consistently delivered flavorful Chenin Blanc grapes to Navarro. His vines are about fifty years old. The canopy on his trellis shades the grapes from the midday sun but allows sufficient air circulation to avoid rot. Add Chenin Blanc to your list of simple pleasures. Pop it open with whatever is fresh from your garden or a local farmer's market. By the bottle it is a good deal and by the case you can't afford not to try it since it works out to only $9.75 per bottle.