2021 I. Brand & Family Winery, Chenin Blanc, Massa Estate Vineyard, Carmel Valley AVA, Monterey County.
Chenin’s rebirth in California is rewarding to watch in real time, especially with these 2021 vintage offerings, and this brand new Ian Brand made old vine Chenin from the historic organic Durney Vineyard, now called the Massa Estate, which was planted back in the late 1960s, with its pure lemon and peachy fruits, mineral notes, herbs, dry honeycomb, delicate earthiness and leesy depth. The wine, which feels crisp, stony and youthful at first opens up to an impactful medium bodied white that will impress your Loire Valley enthusiast fiends, with those that love Saumur Blanc being happily surprised by this California example. As I’ve mentioned in prior reviews, Chenin Blanc is found in most of the New World wine regions, and in fact during the early 1980s, California actually had more acreage of Chenin Blanc planted than France! Though the number of Chenin plantings later steadily declined and the grape fell into obscurity until the last 10 years or so. The grape’s popularity in the state is still reserved for a select few but there are some absolutely awesome offerings, like this one that deserve wider attention. The Loire Valley still sets the standard worldwide, but interestingly, Chenin is the most widely planted variety in South Africa, where it is also known as Steen, and like California, there are some amazing versions there too, such as Sadie Family, Reyneke and Mullineux to name a few.
Ian Brand, with this Massa old vine Chenin Blanc, joins a newer generation of Chenin champions in California include some exciting new producers as well as some old hands, including talents like Leo Hansen of Leo Steen, Ted Lemon of Littorai, Pax Mahle, Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars, Justin Willett of Lieu-Dit, Andrew Jones of Field Recordings, Combe by Raj Parr and Stolpman Vineyards, Tegan Passalacqua of Sandlands, Russell Joyce of Joyce Wine Company, Jaimee Motley as well as the classics still made by Casa Nuestra, Chalone and Chappellet. The I. Brand & Family Massa Chenin Blanc, coming from rejuvenated vines originally own rooted back min about 1968, on a unique set of California shale soils was fermented and aged exclusively in neutral, well used, French oak for close to 18 months, making for textural wine that still retains a elegant and lively precision. There’s a lot admire and enjoy here and I’ve tasted it twice since its bottling and it is on track to get even better, this first time Chenin release from Brand is not to miss gem. Chenin has been on the west coast for a long time, it grows from the Baja Peninsula toOregon’s Willamette to great effect with some serious plantings in Santa Barbara County, the west side of Paso Robles, Monterey County, in particular Chalone, where it has been since 1919 and Carmel Valley as seen here, the Sierra Foothills, Lodi, Clarksberg, Sonoma, Napa Valley and Mendocino County, and there are a number of vineyards that date back to the middle of the last century, so it is a great time to explore this grape.
($36 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive