Chappellet Winery2004 Chenin Blanc "Dry"
Ah, the lonely, forlorn Chenin Blanc. The great grape from Vouvray in the central Loire is all but forgotten in the Napa Valley. Save for a few holdouts such as Lewis Carpenter’s vineyard, Casa Nuestra, and Ballentine in St. Helena, Pine Ridge in the Stags Leap District, and Goosecross in Yountville, Chenin has gone the way of the vinyl phonograph record and Kevin Federline.
But Chappellet Vineyards on Pritchard Hill above St. Helena, has always been a keen progenitor of the variety, having utilized the Chenin that was originally planted in the early 1960s. But one only has to taste this wine to find out why; as well as to discover a grape you’ve most likely dismissed.
The wine first off, is bone dry in the finish. Second, it’s redolent of Mandarin orange, which makes it most appealing. But then in the mouth, the wine surprisingly shows that it’s a wine of substantive qualities with viscosity and lushness and wonderful balance of acidity (the pH is 3.26).
Some of the grapes came from the Chappellet’s Chenin plantings at the 1,200-foot elevation that have gone into some 36 vintages. Alas, with this ’04, all of those vines had to be pulled out (with new plantings to come). The balance of the fruit is from Lew Carpenter’s vineyard down on the valley floor. Coincidentally, and equally sad, the ’04 was the last of the Chenin from this vineyard. It’s further evidence that this noble variety has been back-hoed under.
As for the Chappellet, approximately 25 percent of the wine is barrel fermented and aged sur lie for several months in 1- and 2-year-old French oak barrels. I was surprised that the listed alcohol is 14.5 percent, because it doesn’t manifest in the glass. There were 4,000 cases produced.
Reviewed January 16, 2007 by Alan Goldfarb.
Other reviewed wines from Chappellet Winery
2004 Mountain Cuvee
(Napa Valley)Alan Goldfarb 3/12/2007
Alan Goldfarb has been writing about and reviewing wine for 17 years. His reviews have been published in the St. Helena Star, San Jose Mercury, San Francisco Examiner, Decanter, and Wine Enthusiast, among others. Not once has he used a point system, star system, or an iconic symbol to quantify a wine. What counts in Mr. Goldfarb’s criteria when judging a wine is: how it tastes in the glass; is it well-constructed; its food compatibility; and presence of redeeming regional attributes.