Lively, Precise, and Mineral-Driven Chenin Blanc

Today’s Story: Enfield Wine Co.

Enfield Wine Co. is a relatively small family-owned and operated winery established by John Lockwood and Amy Seese in 2010. John started working in the wine industry in 2004 at Heron Lake Vineyard, followed by harvests at Littorai, Bodega Melipal in Argentina, and Failla Wines. John remained with Failla for five years managing and farming their Sonoma Coast and Russian River estate vineyards, ultimately starting Enfield as a small passion project. In 2013, John left Failla and devoted his time entirely to Enfield.

Enfield focuses primarily on terroir as a starting point, working with small independent growers across a range of regions to source their fruit. John and Amy purchase fruit from Antle Vineyard and Brosseau Vineyard in the Chalone AVA, Haynes Vineyard in Coombsville, Heron Lake Vineyard in Wild Horse Valley, Jesus & Patricia’s Vineyard in Fort Ross-Seaview, and Shake Ridge Vineyard in Amador County. From these sites they acquire a range of varieties including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo amongst others, all with varying vine age as well. John’s philosophy is to harvest his fruit for balance and ferment the wines naturally in order to showcase each unique terroir, eschewing a heavy-handed winemaking style. The wines are often fresh, lively, and mineral-driven, though John does enjoy exploring esoteric bottlings as well.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Jurassic Park Vineyard Chenin Blanc

100% Chenin Blanc; 12% ABV

The 2019 Jurassic Park Vineyard Chenin Blanc is pale gold in color. Given some time to blossom in the glass, the aromas are of pronounced intensity and the nose showcases notes of ripe yellow apple, pear, lemon zest, honeysuckle, ginger, flint, oyster shell, and saline. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity, and the palate displays notes of nectarine, white peach, yellow apple, honey, chamomile, crushed stone, and sea salt. This dry white is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. A very precise and well-balanced Chenin Blanc.

Price: $35. I think this is well-priced for how balanced, complex, and intense the wine is. Nothing sticks out of place here and this is a very solid representation of Chenin Blanc. Though it’s more expensive than the previous Jurassic Park Chenin Blanc I had, the intensity and quality level of this wine justify it.

A Refreshing and Minimal Intervention Chenin Blanc

Today’s Story: Lo-Fi Wines

Lo-Fi Wines was established in 2014 by lifelong friends Mike Roth and Craig Winchester. Centered in a belief wines should be honest and transparent representations of their vintage and variety, Lo-Fi wines are meant to be consumed as everyday drinkers to pair with a broad range of foods and not locked away in the cellar. Through minimal intervention winemaking, Lo-Fi wines ferment naturally with native yeasts and see minimal to zero sulfur additions and no pH adjustments. The wines age in neutral oak barrels and are mostly bottled unfiltered, with the final product an easy-drinking and low alcohol wine. A number of the wines also see whole cluster fermentation and carbonic maceration.

I previously reviewed the 2020 Gamay / Pinot Noir from Lo-Fi.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Jurassic Park Vineyard Chenin Blanc

100% Chenin Blanc; 12.5% ABV

The 2020 Jurassic Park Vineyard Chenin Blanc is pale gold in color. Aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of yellow apple, pear skins, stone fruit, honey, white florals, and wet stone minerality. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of pear, yellow apple, lemon zest, peach, chamomile, honey, and saline. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Easy drinking though it’s slightly funky/reductive particularly on the nose. 195 cases produced.

Price: $26. I haven’t had a ton of Chenin Blanc yet and it’s a variety I’m trying to explore more, but for the price this is a solid and fun one to try. While not the most intense wine, this offers a good array of aromas and flavors wrapped into an easy-drinking and enjoyable bottle. Enjoyable on its own or paired with food.

Beautifully Pure Amador County Chenin Blanc

Today’s Story: Sandlands Vineyards

Sandlands Vineyards is a small family-owned and operated passion project of Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua established in 2010. Tegan, a winemaker with a proven track record of crafting fantastic old vine Zinfandel at Turley Wine Cellars, branched out into this side project with a focus on ancient and “forgotten” varieties. In the far reaches of California winegrowing in Lodi, Contra Costa County, Santa Lucia Highlands, Amador County, and the more familiar Sonoma Coast, Tegan sources Chenin Blanc, Cinsault, Trousseau, Carignane, Mataro, Syrah, Zinfandel, and other varieties from vines that are at times more than 100 years old. Though these varieties and the vineyards he sources from have been farmed for decades and generations, they oftentimes lay outside of the “norm” for California viticulture and are even mostly planted in decomposed granite (i.e. sand). What’s more, the vineyards Tegan works with are typically head-trained, dry-farmed, and own rooted. Tegan crafts these wines in a traditional and minimally invasive manner, allowing the unique terroir and vine to shine through in each bottling which results in lower alcohol, easy drinking, but complex wines. Production is miniscule and quantities are quoted by the barrel, so these can be hard to find and the mailing list is the easiest way.

I’ve been in love with Sandlands’ wines that I’ve tried, and I previously reviewed the 2018 Lodi Zinfandel, 2018 Lodi Red Table Wine, and 2018 Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Amador County Chenin Blanc

100% Chenin Blanc; 12.2% ABV

The 2017 Amador County Chenin Blanc is pale gold in color and transparent. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of lemon curd, crisp yellow apple, quince, honeysuckle, honeycomb, wet stone, and saline. The flavors are also of medium intensity, and the palate displays notes of lemon zest, underripe pear, yellow apple, chamomile, honey, crushed rock minerality, and oyster shell. This dry white is light- to medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. This took some time to come alive in the glass, but once it did the wine did not last long. Very tasty.

Price: $50. I know this is significantly cheaper direct from the winery, though retail pricing in the secondary market seems to be around $50. If you can buy this on the mailing list, don’t hesitate because it is a gorgeous wine that’s both beautifully balanced and fairly complex. As far as price I paid, I have no qualms.

Perplexing and Fun California White Blend

Today’s Story: Dirty & Rowdy Family Winery

I previously wrote about Dirty & Rowdy when reviewing their 2018 Familiar Mourvèdre in Wildly Fun California Mourvèdre, but I will recreate their story below.

Dirty & Rowdy is a small, family-operated winery founded in 2010 by couples Hardy & Kate and Matt & Amy with the goal of producing minimal intervention “honest wines.” Known for their range of Mourvèdre bottlings, Dirty & Rowdy also produces Petite Syrah, Chenin Blanc, and blends that include a GSM and Semillon-dominant white almost all with 100% whole cluster native fermentation, either zero or minimal SO2 added, and no filtering or fining when bottled. Dirty & Rowdy sources their fruit from vineyards in Mendocino, Monterey, Contra Costa, El Dorado, and Amador Counties, with most vineyards organically farmed or at a minimum “responsibly” farmed and unique.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Familiar Blanc

55% Semillon, 16% Chenin Blanc, 15% Pinot Blanc, 10% Viognier, 3% Muscat, 1% Marsanne; 12.3% ABV

The 2018 Familiar Blanc is gorgeous medium gold/yellow in color and completely transparent. The delicate nose emits aromas of melon, peach, tropical citrus, white florals, straw, chamomile, and saline mineral. Once in the mouth, this easy drinking wine displays notes of pear, golden apple skins, lemon zest, grapefruit, honeysuckle, white pepper, stone minerality, and wax. This is medium-bodied with vibrant medium (+) acidity and a fully-rounded mouthfeel into a medium length finish. The wine is produced with 60% whole cluster and 40% skin native fermentation with no winemaking additives and minimal SO2.

Price: $30. Similar to my experience with the Dirty & Rowdy Familiar Mourvèdre I reviewed a few weeks ago, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and fun wine. Pair this with shellfish, roasted pork, or Manchego cheese.

One of the Last Remnants

Today’s Story: Château de la Guimonière

Château de la Guimonière was a very historic 15th Century estate with origins dating to the château built there in 1487. The estate’s vineyards were located on the hillsides of Layon à Chaume in the town of Rochefort sur ​​Loire and occupied 19 hectares under vine. 16 hectares of vineyard land was planted to Chenin Blanc, while the remaining 3 hectares consisted of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Unfortunately, based on my research, it appears the château is now simply a cottage designed for family or group travel accommodations. Perhaps you can stay there when visiting the area for some Loire Valley tastings.

As recently as the late 1990s, under ownership of the Germain family, the estate produced sweet wines after Bernard Germain purchased Château de la Guimonière, Château de Fesles, and Château de la Roulerie. Shortly thereafter, thanks to how difficult it can be to make sweet wines in the Loire Valley, the family sold off Château de la Fesles and Château de la Guimonière. They maintained ownership of Château de la Roulerie, however, which seemed to have the greatest promise thanks to its origins way back in the 11th Century. Perhaps I will try to find one of their wines to review someday.

Bonus fact: Bernard Germain, the former owner of Château de la Guimonière, is the father of Thierry Germain whose Domaine des Roches Neuves I reviewed a wine from in early November. Bernard’s other son Philippe runs Château de la Roulerie.

Today’s Wine: 1997 Coteaux du Layon Chaume

100% Chenin Blanc; 13% ABV

The 1997 Coteaux du Layon Chaume is a disconcerting pale to medium brown in color, almost more reminiscent of a sherry or white Tawny Port. There is zero sediment in the bottle and the wine is almost entirely transparent. Though many people would probably dump this out on first sight, I gave it the old college try and was handsomely rewarded. The nose offers still delicate aromas of dried apricot, baked peach, orange marmalade, honey, white florals, mixed nuts, and slight earthy game while remarkably not really showing signs of oxidation. Once in the mouth, this wine showcases notes of candied orange, quince, marmalade, marzipan, licorice, caramel, toffee, and white floral liqueur. Medium- to full-bodied, this peculiar wine shows medium (+) acidity and a well-rounded finish that ends medium (+) in length.

Price: $100. At this price, I would not buy this wine again. While it was certainly a fun wine to try (I don’t have many wines from producers no longer in existence, or wines that come out brown but taste pleasant) I wouldn’t call it worth trying again. Pair this with rich, pungent cheeses or drink it alone for the odd experience.