2022 I. Brand & Family Winery, Chenin Blanc, Massa Estate Vineyard, Carmel Valley AVA, Monterey County.
The new vintage of Ian Brand’s old vine Chenin from the historic organic Durney Vineyard, now called the Massa Estate in the deeper end of Carmel Valley, which was planted back in the late 1960s, is even better than last year’s debut release with outstanding stony character, clarity and perfect ripeness and fresh acidity, one of the best alternative whites of the 2022 harvest in the central coast. Similar to last year, this 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 the better part of 18 months, making for textural wine that still retains a elegant, mineral driven personality and lively precision. The fruit is radiant with sunny lemon, white peach, apple and earthy muskmelon leading the way on the medium bodied palate along with subtle accents of wet chalk, mountain herbs, loam, a very faint leesy note and a nice seashore and oyster shell salinity. This is a pure California wine, but definitely with old world Loire Valley, Saumur like austerity and charm, I rank this one right up with the newer generation of Chenin champions in California including 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 and Jaimee Motley.
Chenin Blanc, as I’ve noted before, 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. Chenin has been on the west coast for a long time, in fact it grows from the Baja Peninsula to Oregon’s Willamette Valley to great effect, again as mentioned, there is 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 County, Napa Valley and Mendocino County, and there are a number of vineyards that date back to the middle of the last century. There’s a few classics, of note too, still made by Casa Nuestra in St. Helena, Chalone, as noted and Chappellet, with its old vine mountain grapes. Ian Brand, who is mostly known for his reds, like Grenache and Cabernet Franc, told me recently that he’s getting really excited with the white wine grapes in the greater Monterey region and his latest set of wines reflects that, with his Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Albarino, Melon de Bourgogne and rare Arneis all being distinctive and delicious!
($36 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive