18 Jun Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Lang & Reed Chenin Blancs from Mendocino
What is there not to love about Chenin Blanc? A versatile grape, it can be simple and fun or complex; it can be dry or sweet; it can be still or sparkling; it can range in price. Chenin Blanc is a wine of character. Chenin Blanc is a workhorse grape that has been used in blends but when you find a single varietal bottling, you will find a gorgeous, elegant, delicious, textured wine. That is why on the third Saturday of June, which happens to be June 18th this year, we celebrate Chenin Blanc Day and encourage everyone to try it! And why not try the Lang & Reed Chenin Blancs from Mendocino, the Please The Palate pick of the week.
Lang & Reed, established in 1996, is known as a Cabernet Franc house. But owners John and Tracy Skupny were inspired by their son Reed and his wife Megan to try Chenin Blanc after they fell in love with Chenin Blanc in France in 2008. It was the versatility and drinkability that caught their attention. They started making Chenin Blanc in 2013, almost ten years ago.
During the 1980s, the California wine industry had more acreage of Chenin Blanc planted than France but by 2006, only 13,000 acres were planted, mostly in the hot Central Valley. Today it has fallen to fewer than 5,000 acres, and there are only 15 acres of Chenin Blanc found in Napa Valley.
The Skupny family sources their Chenin Blanc from the Talmage Bench in Mendocino County in Northern California. The Sterling/Norgard vineyard sits on the east side of the Russian River and the Chenin Blanc was planted in 1978. John and Reed Skupny have been sourcing fruit from this vineyard since 2013. And in 2020, they produced two bottlings of Chenin Blanc, using two different approaches.
Lang & Reed 2020 Chenin Blanc, Mendocino ($30)
The grapes were whole-cluster pressed and then placed in 19 barrels, 15 were used French oak and four were stainless steel. Half the wine was fermented on native yeasts and half was inoculated. Lees were stirred bi-weekly for two months before bottling. The wine has notes of white peach, nectarine, citrus, and honeysuckle. It has a beautifully textured mouthfeel and lingering acidity. This is a perfect wine to pair with oysters.
Lang & Reed 2020 Talmage Chenin Blanc, Mendocino ($60)
For this wine, two hand-selected barrels, one French oak and one stainless steel, where selected from the total barrels of Chenin Blanc. One barrel was inoculated and one fermented with indigenous yeasts. Then the wine was put into two barrels for aging for 14 months. One barrel was a seasoned Austrian Stockinger barrel and the other was a new Francois Frere barrel. The wine has a richer nose with notes of yellow peach and nectarine, pear, honeysuckle, vanilla, and lime zest. On the palate, this wine has brighter acidity and finishes with notes of butterscotch and milk chocolate. This wine can be paired with more substantial dishes such as goat cheese, charcuterie, or a pork chop.
These two expressions of Chenin Blanc from Lang & Reed demonstrate the versatility of Chenin Blanc. That is why we should #drinkchenin on #drinkcheninday but also every day!