In 1979, Les and Lynne Russell both left successful careers and their newly completed dream house in the Bay Area to move to the Sierra Foothills in order to begin fulfilling a new dream. They had decided to venture into the wine-grape growing business. The husband and wife team believed that the consistently sunny days, cool evenings and rocky granite-bearing soils of El Dorado County provided a winning combination for wine production. The decision to include a winery soon followed; in 1981 the Russells founded Granite Springs Winery.
An interesting mix of traditional and modem winemaking practices is employed at the winery. Fermentation takes place in open redwood fermenters as well as in refrigeration-controlled stainless steel tanks. Oak barrel ageing is in both French and American oak. Their success has been such that demands for Granite Springs wines have kept the boutique facility operating at maximum capacity for the past three years. Several years ago, their Chenin Blanc achieved special notice when selected for presidential use. Since 1987, this wine has been poured at White House receptions.
Until relatively recently, Chenin Blanc production was limited almost exclusively to France’s Anjou-Tourraine region in the heart of the Loire Valley’s tourist zone. Nearly every sort of wine can be, produced from Chenin Blanc: exquisite sweet wines so long-lived that few ever actually survive to see their peak; attractive, medium-dry, uniquely fragrant wines; not to mention austerely dry, oak aged, full-bodied, long-lived white burgundy types. Add to these the full spectrum of sparkling wine types also produced to see the grand scope of this versatile varietal. When transplanted out of France, Chenin Blanc yields mainly good quality, moderately priced, dry to medium-dry table wines. This month’s selection is a fine example.
The color is very clear, light yellow-gold. A beautiful floral fragrance (gardenia, jasmine) is mixed with pear and peach accents which waft gently from the glass. The wine has a luscious texture in the mouth; not rich, not heavy, not sweet, just remarkably smooth. Light acidity and a pleasant, subtle aftertaste round out this lighthearted wine.
Serve it chilled just for sipping or try it with sauteed chicken breast fillets flambe au Cognac.
Cellaring Notes: For drinking now and through summer 1991.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper