This is their first Chenin Blanc to carry the Santa Barbara County Appellation since 2004. The grape source is altogether new. The sprawling, White Hills Vineyard near Santa Maria, was planted in the early 1980′s. The Chenin Blanc vines are ideally situated on a moderate south-facing slope in deep, sandy soil. Production is very moderate by California standards, and the quality high. The slow fermentation took place entirely in stainless steel over a long, 72 day period at steady, cool temperatures. An early 2011 bottling has captured and full vitality of this classic variety, vineyard and vintage with lovely aromas of honey and flowers wedded to complex flavors of fresh pears and quince. DRG 1/11
This wine and vintage mark a new beginning in Daniel Gehrs long and passionate winemaking affair with Chenin Blanc which first began in 1977 and entered its most recent era in 1991. They are working with an established vineyard, circa 1981, for the first time in Santa Barbara County. The Chenin Blanc of the White Hills Vineyard, south and west of the city of Santa Maria, is situated on a south-facing slope in very sandy soil. The vines are thrifty and of low production compared to the same variety grown in a richer soil. This Chenin Blanc is transcends the whole California/International style box to reveal an authentic and unique terroir born of a cool, late ripening climate and exceptionally well drained soil. Their goal in plotting the timing of harvest and the ensuing fermentation is to preserve and showcase this great singularity in the bottled wine. This is realized by a long, cold fermentation to integrate the wine and fruit aspects into one, harmonious whole.
There is a ripe pear aroma that is central to the varietal expression together with youthful notes of honey and flowers. This 2010 also reveals white peach and a subtle but distinct touch of Botrytis which takes that honeyed perfume to an even higher level in this vintage. Based on experience, as this wine ages I expect a vanilla-marzipan-roasted hazelnut complex to emerge, complementing the youthful fruit evident now. Flavors range from nectarine to white peach to lemon meringue to ripe green plum and lemon rind. The purely natural, unadjusted acidity is enough to support a palate that is big, juicy and lush. The acidity shows up in the tangy finish together with the vineyard’s signature minerality giving the wine great cut and a long, clean aftertaste. In the simplest terms, this is a medium-to-full bodied but very well balanced wine. Chenin Blanc from Savenierres and the best districts in the Loire Valley have a reputation for surprising longevity which, I am confident, this wine shares. I expect it to develop over the next decade with proper storage.
Enjoy it with richly sauced chicken dishes like chicken Kiev, buttery, boiled lobster tail or lemon butter sautéed scallops.
Tasting Date: January 2012
Producer: Daniel Gehrs
Varietal: Chenin Blanc
Vineyard: White Hills Vineyard
SubRegion: Central Coast
Retail Price on Tasting Date:$15.99