Domestic Selection: Chenin Blanc, 1989. Granite Springs

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

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