Columbia Crest Reserve Chenin Blanc, 2014
From old vines in the Horse Heaven Hills, this small lot (500 cases) preserves the greatness of the Chenin Blanc grape. In France’s Loire Valley this grape can produce some of the world’s best wines. They can be “to die for.”
In the New World, Chenin Blanc can be quite ordinary. It’s firm acid backbone can make it useful for adding to blends and even for a component in sparkling wines, but even though its acids hold up well in hot climates, it seems to need a cooler region to show its best. Therefore, what will this grape show us when grown in the Horse Heaven Hills?
The flavors to expect from Chenin Blanc range from apples, nectarines, and stone fruit to more tropical fruits like pineapple. A touch of honey is something all fans of this grape look for. Honeyed Chenin Blanc’s can be delicious. Most are vinified with some residual sugar. A lot of residual sugar ends up making some of the world’s greatest dessert wines, but you can find appealing dry Chenin Blancs, too.
Because this very ancient variety tends to vigorously produce foliage and grapes, look for a low yield example for the better wines. When kept to lower yields, it can produce richly flavored wines with lower acid levels. Another thing you need to know is that it favors a little oak.
Now, what do we find in this example from the Horse Heaven Hills? A clean, clear wine with the slightest hint of color greets your senses. Lime, pear, and white peach with tantalizing floral notes on the nose introduces the wine well. It is off dry, which means it is a great aperitif wine. With shrimp and a lightly spiced cocktail sauce, it pairs very well. The wine is lively, delicate, and the hint of honey is there in a beautifully smooth, rich mouthfeel. What a long finish! The fruit lasts and lasts. Go back and taste again and note the balance and the follow-through of the flavors, giving this wine a harmony that truly makes it a worthy Columbia Valley example of the Chenin Blanc grape.
Emotional rating: A soft lively and appealing elegance. Wonderful!