Each wine region of France is home to a variety of grape used in wines bearing that region's name. From Vouvray comes chenin blanc. If you're a dessert wine-enthusiast, you probably know that chenin makes for exceptionally sweet wines, including Quarts des Charmes from the Loire, which are among the world's best.
That grape turns up here, as well. "Before chardonnay began to grow in popularity in the 1970s, chenin blanc was the most widely planted classic white grape in California," Karen MacNeil writes in The Wine Bible. Still, it's hardly celebrated stateside, as the chenin blanc rarely turns up on its own.
But it's worth learning about. Napa-based Picnic Wine Company's Blue Plate is a chenin blanc from the Clarksburg AVA (in the Delta). According to co-founder Zach Bryant, this is "a dry wine, with no oak, and no malolactic fermentation, with an emphasis on the aromatic fruit characteristics that's extremely food-friendly. And it's $10."
We tried the wine, and they're serving up exactly what their menu describes. Here are our notes:
Wine: Blue Plate 2010 Chenin Blanc
Notes: Pale as watered-down chardonnay. Lightly green citrus nose. Soft, creamy, sparkle of brightness in the mouth with a touch of umami in the finish. Citrus notes are light, sprayed with a misting of peach and a bit of the brightness of green apple with an ever appearing interlacing of cream. Dry, soft, creamy, bright and lively.
Sells for: $10
Drinks like: $20+
Where to score it: K&L Wines, The Wine House, D&M Wines and Liquor, Real Food Company, and Wine on Piedmont across the bay. By-the-glass at Mission Cheese and Bin38.
Blue Plate is Picnic Wine Company's first wine. With this year's harvest they will add a Grenache Noir, a Pinot Noir, and another style of Chenin Blanc. We look forward to trying the extended collection, and, based on chenin's exceptional showing in dessert wines, will hope the "other style" of chenin is a sweet one.