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2012 Husch Vineyards Chenin Blanc

Jon and I picked up this wine on our California trip in Spring 2013, when we had the good fortune to visit Husch Vineyards.

I opened it up last night,  after putting a couple of bottles of white wine in the fridge to chill a bit.  Now that it’s spring, I’m enjoying my whites even more!  I couldn’t be more pleased.  It has flavors of pineapple blended with minerality, giving it a balanced flavor that I love.  It has just a hint of sweetness on the tip of the tongue, with a lingering light honey syrup on the back of the palate.

Husch has been producing their Chenin Blanc since 1984, and they have clearly been doing something right.  It is fermented in stainless steel tanks, and bottled only a few weeks after fermentation was complete.

Not to mention it is a great value at just $12.00 a bottle.

Have you had the Husch Vineyards Chenin Blanc?  Have you been to the Anderson Valley? 

California Road Trip: The Anderson Valley Pinot Tour

We woke up the next morning ready for our foray into Anderson Valley Wine Country.  At that point, it had been a whole 18 hours since I had last thrown up!  Not the ideal timing for a wine tour, but today was the day, as the rest of the trip was mapped out in other places.  I am a big (no – HUGE!) fan of Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs, and I have been interested in trying some of Pinots from other areas.  In researching our trip, I learned that the Anderson Valley has a double draw – they are known for their Pinot Noir wines and there are also several sparkling wine producers!  Win, win!  The Anderson Valley is characterized by a coastal fog that settles in the valley, creating the cool nights that Pinot Noir is known to thrive on.

Jon and I got on the road, and while I was feeling a lot better (my breakfast remaining in my stomach being a vast improvement over the day before), I would be lying if I said I was feeling 100%.  So we headed out, across Highway 253, a scenic country road that heads up and over some hills before descending into the valley at Boonville.  The view was nice, and we enjoyed the drive.

A Historic Wine Delivery Truck in Boonville, California

A Historic Wine Delivery Truck in Boonville, California

Our plan was to drive northwest from Boonville to Navarro on Highway 128, and then turn around and work our way back, stopping at our destination wineries along the way.  There are many wineries located right on 128, so there really isn’t much chance of getting lost on country roads along the way.  We checked out where we wanted to go on the way back (really, I decided where I wanted to go, because Jon hadn’t provided any input) and then we drove up to our first stop of the day.

Handley Cellars is a family owned winery that began operations in 1982.  When you step into the tasting room, you are met with all sorts of interesting items from around the world.  The server explained that the elephant chairs in the sitting area are over 100 years old, and is among the folk art items that have been collected by winemaker Milla Handley in her travels around the world.

Handley Cellars Tasting Room

Handley Cellars Tasting Room

While we were there, we tasted the 2011 Mendocino County Chardonnay, the 2011 Anderson Valley Gewürztraminer, and the 2007 Late Harvest Riesling.  For the reds, we tasted the 2009 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, the 2010 Mendocino County Pinot Noir, and the 2009 Anderson Valley Reserve Pinot Noir.  We also tried the 2009 Redwood Valley Syrah and the 2010 Redwood Valley Zinfandel.  It was our first winery of the day, and as I was still a bit tired from being sick, and I completely forgot to take any notes.  Sadly, I didn’t love the style of Pinot Noir.  It was a much more earthy and spicy than the light, acidic, cherry Pinots from the Willamette Valley.  The highlights of our tasting were the Late Harvest Riesling and the Zinfandel, which we took home with us.

View of the Vineyards at Handley Cellars

View of the Vineyards at Handley Cellars

Husch Vineyards was our next stop, right down the road – their tasting room is very scenic – located in a historic pony barn built in the late 1800s.  Husch planted their first vineyards in 1968 and the winery was founded in 1971, making it the oldest winery in the Anderson Valley.  The current owners purchased the winery from the Husch family in 1979.  All of their grapes are estate grown, but some of the vineyards are in the Mendocino area.

Husch has a wide selection of wines (22 in all – although only 17 were available the day we were there), and you can choose to sample any six on their list.  I sampled their 2011 Mendocino Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 Vine One Anderson Valley Chardonnay, 2012 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley (a Rosé), 2010 Anderson Valley Reserve Pinot Noir, 2010 Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Mendocino Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Chenin Blanc, and 2012 Muscat Canelli.  If you count up those wines, you’ll notice that they let me sample eight, which just goes to show a little friendliness goes a long way.

Husch Vineyards

Husch Vineyards

I was pleased with many of their wines, with their Chardonnay being a nice balance between the crisp style that I like and the oak that Jon prefers.  Their Vin Gris Rosé was a nice, light summer wine, perfect for a hot day.  The Reserve Pinot Noir was very nice, with more of the cherry flavors I have come to love in a Pinot Noir.  Jon and I both enjoyed the Husch Cabernet Sauvignon, although I didn’t taste enough of a difference to justify the big price difference between the regular and the reserve Cab.

And I enjoyed the Chenin Blanc, which had a slight sweetness with acidity and just a hint of butter.  The Muscat Canelli had flavors of peach with honeysuckle on the finish.  We left with a couple of bottles – the Reserve Pinot Noir and the Chenin Blanc.  Then we continued on our tour!

The Grand Tour – Day 4 – Charleston (Afternoon)

After our Blind Tiger experience, we headed back out to continue touristing.  We headed over to the Old Slave Mart Museum.  The Old Slave Mart was Ryan’s Mart, which operated as a slave market for domestic slaves (born in the US, not brought from Africa).  The market operated from 1856 to 1863, after Charleston banned public slave auctions (which used to occur on the north side of the Exchange building – I talked about this building in my previous post).  Slave auctions were getting to be a bit controversial at that point – by the 1850s abolitionists like Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, were beginning to cover slave auctions and provide a social commentary about the cruel conditions that the slaves were subjected to.  The legal trans-Atlantic slave trade had already come to an end in 1807 – although that did little to curb illegal transport of slaves to the U.S.  In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which brought the cruelty and barbarity of slavery to Americans who had likely not thought about it much.  Ryan’s Mart opened as an indoor “gallery-style” slave market, because by the mid to late 1850s, abolitionists were gaining a foothold in the court of public opinion, and Charlestonians thought it best to move these disturbing auctions behind closed doors.

To be honest though, I found the museum a bit disappointing.  It goes through the basics of slavery in South Carolina, but it was really information that I already knew.  Sadly, the building doesn’t have any of the original features remaining – I think the exhibit would have been much more compelling if they had restored the building to what it had been at the time.  Instead, they have covered it up with drywall and poster board exhibits.  It was a decent basic overview of slavery, but I wanted to see more that was specific to this slave market and how it affected the lives of those passing through here.  One interesting fact that I learned though, is that only 15 men in the U.S. owned more than 500 slaves (9 of them were in South Carolina).  Another interesting fact (from online), is that there were about 385,000 slave owners in the U.S. in 1860, which was about 1.4 percent of the population.

Old Slave Mart Museum

What is very interesting about the building is the fact that it was converted to a tenement dwelling after the Civil War, and operated as a tenement until Miriam Wilson purchased the building in 1938 and turned it into a museum of African American history, arts and crafts.  I always love when people have the foresight to realize the historical value of a place and do what they can to protect it.  Without Miriam Wilson, I’m sure the building would have been torn down long ago…

Closeup of the Slave Mart Museum Sign – Maybe the Lettering is from Miriam Wilson’s Day?

After the Slave Mart, Jon and I decided that instead of going back to the Edmonton-Alston house, which was now further away than we wanted to walk, we would go to the Nathaniel Russell house.  Nathaniel Russell was the wealthiest merchant in Charleston in the early 1800s.  He had already made his fortune by the time he made this town house his home, having it designed and built in 1820.  Impressive features of the home include a 3 story completely free flying staircase.  It balances its weight completely on the steps below and is not attached to the wall or supported by columns or a wall down to the floor.  And it has withstood hurricanes for almost 2 centuries and the 1886 earthquake!  The home also has trompe l’oeil doors and baseboards.  The doors are painted to look like expensive hardwood, when in fact they are pine, which was plain but was frequently used because it withstood the barrage of southern insects.  The baseboards around the home were painted to look like marble – they were very realistic looking!  Can you imagine – we could all just have our counter-tops painted to look like granite, instead of paying for the real thing!  Honestly, I’m not sure that would be any less expensive, thinking about the hours it must have taken to do all that painting.  The tour guide at the Nathaniel Russell house was great, with lots of excellent information about the house and the family.  He was a true southern gentleman.  I wanted to call him Ashley… like in Gone with the Wind!

The Front View of the Nathaniel Russell House

The Side View of the Nathaniel Russell House – Inside the Rooms in This Area Are Circular!

A Close Up of the Wrought Iron Balcony – Nathaniel Russell Had His Monogram Worked into the Iron

The Front Door of the Nathaniel Russell House

Close Up of the Front Door – Showing Trompe L’oeil Painting

The heat and humidity were starting to get the best of us by this time, so we found a frozen yogurt place and cooled down with a bit of a treat.  Cece’s yogurt shop is across from the City Market and we had admired some sweet grass baskets earlier, which are hand woven from sweet grass, and also using bull rush, palms and pine needles.  The are truly works of art, taking lots of time to complete one basket.  As a result, there are baskets ranging from $30 up to several hundreds of dollars for the very large, ornate ones.  One day I’ll be able to afford one of those.  In the meantime, Jon and I chose one to bring home that is medium sized; we think it is beautiful.  An excellent memento from our trip.

Our Sweet Grass Treasure

Then we made our back (a little more slowly now) to the Visitor’s Center on very sore feet and legs.  We didn’t feel like having a restaurant meal (getting a little burned out on restaurant food), so we got a dinner of sandwiches, yogurt and fruit from the local Piggly Wiggly.  We got back to our hotel just as a new thunderstorm rolled in, and the torrential downpour began again.  We soothed our tired backs and aching feet with some true crime TV and Biltmore Estate wine – the Chenin Blanc this time!  And I was happy that we made so much of the day!