Tag Archive | Chenin Blanc

MAN Family Wines: 2016 Chenin Blanc

The MAN Family Wines 2016 Chenin Blanc is one that I picked up a few weeks ago at Cost Plus World Market, when I was on my way home from my business meeting.  It is South African, which is a country whose wines I haven’t explored that much.

I opened it several days ago, my pre-Thanksgiving wine to enjoy.  On the nose, this wine has aromas of pineapple and lemongrass.  The flavor is similar, beginning with a tart flavor of lemongrass, then settling into tropical fruit and pineapple, and finally, a floral note on the finish.  It certainly meets the winery description of a sweet and sour wine.

MAN Family Wines 2016 Chenin Blanc

Interestingly the winery uses only free run juice – they do not press the skins.  I don’t really know how that is supposed to make a difference, as it doesn’t seem common to have a wine made exclusively from free-run juice.  At any rate, it is a steal at only $6.99!  Delicious!

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!

Tubac, You Say? – Never Heard of It!

In January 2010, Jon and I took a trip down to Tucson, Arizona for 4 days. Anyone who lives in the northwest understands that winters here get dreary, and at some point, it becomes necessary to save oneself and escape to someplace sunny and dry. We flew down on a Saturday, and got to Mesa as the sun was beginning to set. We got our rental car quickly because we didn’t have to wait for checked bags, and were soon on the road headed south to Tucson.

My parents had gotten us a GPS for Christmas the month before, and we brought it along, thinking this would be a great time to try it out and get a lot of use out of it. The GPS came with two cords, one to plug into the car, and one to plug into the computer to download new maps. Of course, I only brought the one to plug into the car, and of course, I brought the wrong one….  Oops.  Live and learn, and never forget how to read an actual, paper road map. Luckily, I had brought one along. Our GPS had enough battery life to get us to Tucson, but then we had to rely on those good old map reading skills that we were taught in school. Wait – we didn’t learn that in school? Where did we learn how to read road maps?

On the way, we ate dinner in a chain restaurant that I had never heard of called Mimi’s Cafe. It has a New Orleans Jazz theme, and it was actually pretty good. We enjoyed ourselves, and the wait there was 10 times shorter than the Olive Garden. And it was a good thing we stopped when we did, because if I had gotten much hungrier, hostages could have been taken. So, after my tummy was full and my nerves were soothed, we continued our trek down I-10 to the Comfort Inn.

Our Comfort Inn was just a couple of miles outside of downtown Tucson, and conveniently located to the things that we wanted to see and do. The one drawback was that there wasn’t much in the way of food right near there. The hotel had a continental breakfast, so we had one meal out of the way each day. But they did have a clean comfortable room with cable, and that night after settling down, we discovered Pawn Stars. If you haven’t heard of Pawn Stars, it is the guilty pleasure for anyone who likes antique stores, history, estate sales, or Antiques Roadshow, combined with the absurb reality of people in Las Vegas pawning their treasures to get gambling money (they never say that’s why they want the money, but I’m convinced that 90% of them will head right into the casino with their cash). Jon and I were transfixed. When we got home, we discovered that my mom already knew all about Pawn Stars, and she didn’t tell us! Oh well, I guess we only get so much with basic cable – the world continues without us.

The next morning, fresh faced from watching Pawn Stars early into the morning, we got up and decided to head down to Tubac. Tubac is a artist community, i.e. tourist trap about 30 minutes north of the Mexican border. It is a sleepy little village with art galleries and shops galore, and a couple of restaurants. If you don’t want to do any shopping, this is probably not the place for you. We poked around there for awhile, marveling at all the handmade furniture, oriental carpets, and beautiful paintings that we can’t afford. We did buy a little matching pottery spoonrest and sponge holder to take home with us. There is a furniture maker there who uses burled wood and wood with various knots and imperfections, and then fills the knots with crushed turquoise and seals it in. The result is a table with streaks of turquoise running randomly across the top or side of the piece. It is absolutely beautiful, and one day, maybe I will have one. We had lunch in a Mexican cantina restaurant called Old Tubac Inn, with the best salsa. The food was good, and went well with a cold Corona. It would have gone a little better with the beer if the restaurant hadn’t been quite so cold though.

After lunch we headed over to see El Presidio de San Ignacio Tubac, which is now a state park and historic site. Tubac has a long and colorful history – it was first settled by non-natives in 1691, by Jesuit missionary Father Francisco Eusebio Kino, who set about building farms and missions and converting the natives. By 1751, the Pima Indians were tired of being dominated and revolted, destroying the Tubac settlement in the process. When they were defeated in 1752, the Presidio de San Ignacio de Tubac was built and garrisoned with 50 troops, to prevent further revolt. Captain Juan Bautista de Anza II was stationed here from 1760 until 1776, and during this period, he led two overland expeditions to California, the second of which resulted in the founding of San Francisco.

The mission was moved to Tucson in 1776, and it fell into ghost town status until the Spaniards reactivated it in 1787. It was a stop on the route of the overland ‘49ers, who lured away most of the residents. When the US finally purchased the area in 1853, Tubac was a ghost town again. A mining company was established in 1856, bringing new life to the area, but only until it busted in 1860. Tubac was seized by Confederate troops during the Civil War, but only until the Union got it back a few months later. Apache Indians periodically raided the site from the 1750’s all the way through the 1860’s so there was never much peace and quiet in Tubac. Geronimo finally surrendered in 1866.

The current town site was established in 1882, and seems to have been a sleepy village ever since. The artist community was created in 1948, when artist Dale Nichols formed the Artist’s School. The Presidio site became a state park in 1959. Who knew a tiny little artist town could have seen so much? The site is a mix of ruins and buildings that have been preserved from the 18th and 19th centuries. It is certainly worth a visit, and we even watched the cheesy video at the museum (they really need to update it).

After touring the museum and the grounds at El Presidio de San Ignacio Tubac, there wasn’t really anything else to do in Tubac, so we headed towards home. We knew that there were wineries in the area, so we decided to take a detour on the way home through Sonoita. We didn’t have the whole afternoon, but we gave it a go and found Kief-Joshua Winery. Arizona’s wineries use mostly grapes from California, because the plantings in Arizona are relatively new. I imagine that as the industry grows, they will begin to use more Arizona-grown grapes. Kief-Joshua is an elaborate house, with slate floors and a large tasting room that look like it was accommodate a fairly large special event. That said, the tasting bar itself wasn’t very big, and curved around in a way that made it tough to fit more than about 4 people.

The server was a young guy who seemed to know quite a bit about their wines, and we started off with a Chenin Blanc that I wish I could get in Washington. It was nice, crisp and fruity, perfect for a hot summer day spent in the sun. I still remember it fondly, and hey, if any of you are going to be in Elgin, Arizona anytime soon, could you pick me up a bottle? The rest of their wines were ok, but nothing to write home about. They have a neat logo on their glasses of a gnarled old grapevine though.

We only had time for one more winery, and it was open until 6, so the guy at Kief-Joshua suggested we head over to Wilhelm Family Vineyards. The winemaker served us herself and it was obvious she took great pride in her wines. The atmosphere in the tasting room was friendly and comfortable, and we talked to a Hispanic woman who told us that the way to make a great guacamole is to add feta cheese. She’s right, it does give it that something different (we should do that again sometime soon.) Jon and I both liked Wilhelm’s Zinfandel. She also had an herbed wine concoction called Gluhwein, a German traditional drink, where you added a mix to wine. It was pretty good, but I wasn’t sure we would ever drink our wine like that. Before we left, she signed our bottle of Zinfandel for us (unfortunately, it was a felt tip marker, and it got a bit smudgy). So, we headed back towards our home away from home with a couple bottles of wine to drink over the next few days of our trip.

Kief-Joshua Winery

And with that, we headed home to enjoy our wine.