Pine Ridge CB+V Chenin Blanc - Viognier 2003
Blending Chenin Blanc with Viognier—it was just an experiment. Until it was tasted and it was realized CB+V was a masterpiece. Together, they deliver a unique tapestry of flavors and aromas that are elegant and easy to enjoy. The Chenin Blanc hails from Clarksburg, which is located in the Sacramento River Delta. This locale experiences temperatures in excess of 90° during the day but a much cooler climate in the evening. This kind of differential creates ideal ripening conditions where the fruit can develop lush, ripe flavors but retain enough natural acidity for excellent balance. Here, the loamy mineral rich soils give Chenin Blanc a “honey” character, which is one of its defining characteristics. Southeast of Clarksburg is Lodi, where the Viognier is grown. Lodi experiences a Mediterranean climate, and because of ancient river sediment, the vineyards contain large stones similar to those found in France’s Rhone Valley, the original home of Viognier. This versatile wine pairs well with a number of dishes, from light salads to seafood, and most notably with foods with a hint of spiciness—its subtle sweetness provides balance alongside a touch of heat. It’s the perfect pour for the start of an evening with appetizers or a platter of salumi. Also try Chenin Blanc + Viognier with a flavorful Thai curry, a frittata with sweet onions and ricotta, or a shrimp and avocado tostada. For a perfect cheese pairing, enjoy CB+V with a dense, lemony goat’s milk French Chabichou du Poitou.
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production as well as tourism, the Napa Valley was responsible for bringing worldwide recognition to California winemaking. In the 1960s, a few key wine families settled the area and hedged their bets on the valley's world-class winemaking potential—and they were right.
The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980s, when producers scooped up vineyard lands and planted vines throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, and today Napa is home to hundreds of producers ranging from boutique to corporate. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Napa whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that claim specific characteristics based on situation, slope and soil. Farthest south and coolest from the influence of the San Pablo Bay is Carneros, followed by Coombsville to its northeast and then Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford. Above those are the warm St. Helena and the valley's newest and hottest AVA, Calistoga. These areas follow the valley floor and are known generally for creating rich, dense, complex and smooth reds with good aging potential. The mountain sub appellations, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs, include Stags Leap District, Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley (farther east), Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain District and Diamond Mountain District. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from a lot of time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
Unquestionably one of the most diverse grape varieties, Chenin blanc can do it all. It shines in every style from bone dry to unctuously sweet, oaked or unoaked, still or sparkling and even as the base for fortified wines and spirits. Perhaps Chenin blanc’s greatest asset is its ever-present acidity, maintained even under warm growing conditions. While most would agree it reigns supreme when from its birthplace of the Loire Valley, Chenin is the most planted variety in South Africa. California’s Clarksburg appellation is also winning more notoriety for its Chenin.
In the Glass
Chenin's drier versions commonly have characteristics of passion fruit, lemon, quince, green apple, saffron and chamomile while sweeter version express aromas and flavors such as yellow pear, white peach, persimmon, melon, ginger and honeysuckle. When aged in oak, qualities like meringue and brioche can be found. Sparkling versions often have yellow apple, ginger and floral notes.
Cool-climate Chenin blanc has the chalky acidity to work with light seafood such as oysters and shellfish. Off-dry styles work well with the sweet-and-sour nature of Thai and Vietnamese food. The sparkling versions such as Saumur Mousseux, Vouvray Petillant and Crémant de Loire make amazing aperitif options that won’t bruise the pocketbook.
South Africa actually has double the amount of Chenin blanc planted compared to France. It is believed that either the Dutch navigator, Jan van Riebeeck, brought the grape to Cape Town in 1655 or the Huguenots fleeing France brought it in 1685. Either way, the South Africans have favored it for many centuries and make it in almost every style. Today a new wave of dedicated producers has committed to restoring old Chenin vines and finding the most ideal new spots for this prized variety.