Friday, March 14, 2014

2012 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc+Viognier

I haven't tasted this wine.  I'm reporting on it because it's on the shelf here and, of course, I need to sell it but also because of my long history with Pine Ridge Vineyards.  The wine is in the store, by the way, because someone recently asked for Pine Ridge Chardonnay and upon quoting him a price and observing his telling sigh, I told him how good the Chenin/Viognier was for about a third of the Chardonnay price.  That is sometimes the way things happen here.

Pine Ridge Vineyards was founded by Gary Andrus in 1978 about the same time I took my first wine job while studying in northern California.  I didn't taste Pine Ridge wines until sometime in the early eighties and for my naive palate, they instantly became amongst my faves up to that point.  Pine Ridge is known for Cabernet Sauvignon in particular but also for red Bordeaux or Meritage blends in general.  Pine Ridge is also known for its location in the Stag's Leap District of Napa Valley and yes, there is a ridge of pine trees adjacent to the vineyard.

The 2012 Chenin/Viognier blend is 80% Chenin Blanc and 20% Viognier and according to their website features jasmine, honeyed pears, and chai spice in the nose and tropical fruit primarily in the mouth although finishing with white peaches, pineapple, and citrus.  This wine experiences no time in oak so that finish is fresh, crisp, and clean.  Other reviews report aromas and flavors of grapefruit, mango, perfume, honeydew melon, candied pineapple, spring flowers, and cantaloupe.  Some reviewers consider this wine to be off-dry; most use adjectives like crisp and elegant to describe its basic dryness.  Every review scores this wine highly.

Pine Ridge Chenin/Viognier is a refreshingly low 12% alcohol with a medium body and good zesty acidity making it a perfect cocktail wine.  Food pairings would include salads and seafood in general but also spicy dishes, including sushi and Asian dishes, and this wine may be one of the few to tackle curry successfully.

So here's a new installment echoing a recurring theme in this blog: the modern California wine industry illustrates in cases like Pine Ridge just how a wine may evolve based on history and good business sense.  Mr. Andrus originally planted Chenin Blanc in his Pine Ridge estate vineyards back in '78 and bottled his Napa varietal Chenin Blanc through the 1980s.  It was amazingly good.  Then, one would assume because Napa land had become so expensive, growing Chenin Blanc grapes there became impractical so those rows were replanted in Cabernet and other Meritage grapes.

The Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc is now sourced from Clarkesburg in the Sacramento River basin where the loamy, mineral-rich soil optimally nourishes vine roots while the diurnal effect of hot days and cool nights accentuates the acidity of the grapes and hastens the ripening process.  The tropical fruit flavors, however, come from the Viognier sourced a little further south and west in Lodi.  As beneficial as Clarkesburg is to Chenin Blanc, Lodi is similarly to Viognier, and that kind of insightful knowledge is learned over time.  The Chenin Blanc is harvested early for acidity; the Viognier, later for rich, ripe fruit and that's how this game is played.

Please join us here this evening (5-8pm) when Taylor Moore of Eagle Rock Distributing presents the wines of Chilcas, a certified organic producer in the Maipo Valley of Chile.  We will be tasting five reds and a Sauvignon Blanc priced between $12.99 and $50/btl.  Please join us and for gosh sakes become a follower of this blog.

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