chenin_haarmeyer

Photo courtesy of Craig Haarmeyer.

Chenin Blanc from the Clarksburg AVA is described as a light, dry white wine with notes of light honey, nectarine, and peach.

The grapes are native to the Loire Valley in northern France. In addition to the Loire Valley, the world’s finest and most distinctive Chenin Blancs originate from South Africa and right here in our backyard, in Clarksburg in the Sacramento River Delta.

Chenin Blanc thrives in the Sacramento Delta because of the welcoming natural conditions: the Delta soil, which is composed of various alluvial layers including sandy loam and dense clay, paired with the hot summer days and maritime-influenced cool nights.  Gerald Asher of Gourmet magazine once wrote “It’s the right grape in the right place.” And local gastronome Darrell Corti proclaimed “Chenin Blanc loves rich Delta soil.”

Chenin Blanc was once a popular and prolific grape grown throughout California. In the late 1970s, Charles Krug produced 125,000 cases of dry Chenin Blanc. Yet, today, its production is threatened by wine industry trends. Acreage is at an all time low, falling almost 80% since the 1980s, and most is grown in the Central Valley as an anonymous blending grape. While many vineyards have chosen to replace Chenin Blanc with better selling varietals, several wineries have continued to carry on the tradition of Chenin Blanc, creating unique and award-winning wines, and preserving this distinctive expression of our local region. Producers of Chenin Blanc in our region include Wilson Ranch, Bogle Vineyards, Heringer Vineyards, Baranek Vineyards, Six Hands, and Dancing Coyote.

Originally settled just after the 1849 Gold Rush, Clarksburg has been a productive agricultural area for over a century (producing pears, alfalfa, tomatoes, and cattle). The transformation to vineyards began in the early 1960s. Chenin Blanc was first introduced to the area and quickly became a star, putting Clarksburg Chenin Blanc on the national stage through the 1970s. Almost all of the growers have been farming here for five or six generations, since prior to 1900.

Because of Chenin Blanc’s uniqueness and rich history, Slow Food Sacramento and the Green Restaurant Alliance of Sacramento are working on a nomination of Chenin Blanc from Clarksburg AVA for Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, which preserves unique flavors from particular regions. We are proposing it be certified as a heritage product, outstanding in terms of taste—as defined in the context of local traditions and uses, at risk biologically or as culinary traditions, and produced in limited quantities.

To learn more, join us for an upcoming Chenin Blanc tasting and Slow Food mixer on April 23. Details and tickets available here.

The tasting will feature these great wineries:

  • Revolution
  • Bogle
  • Rendez Vous
  • Heringer
  • Clarksburg Wine Company
  • Dancing Coyote
  • Blue Plate
  • Twisted River
  • Dry Creek Vineyards