2020 Desire Lines Wine Co, Chenin Blanc, Experimental Series #9 – Salty Savory, Cat Canyon Vineyard, Santa Barbara County.
I had tucked this bottle of Chenin away and just found it, which was lucky as Will Larkin of Ian Brand’s I. Brand & Family Winery had just received his monthly New Oyster Cult shipment of fresh Prince Edward Island oysters and this mineral driven and saline infused white was as perfect as perfect gets with these briny gems. The Desire Lines Wine Co. wines label, as I’ve reviewing for about half a dozen years now is the personal project of Cody Rasmussen, the assistant winemaker at Morgan Twain-Peterson MW’s Bedrock Wine Company in Sonoma and who is one of California’s top guns in making Syrah and dry Riesling, and is a label you should without question check out as soon as possible. This 2020 vintage Cat Canyon, located in Los Alamos area, not far from the Santa Ynez Valley, Chenin Blanc was totally new for Rasmussen and he nailed it, delivering a gorgeous medium bodied, vinous, old world style white with a pale gold color and an earthy presence in the glass with wet stones, white peach, preserved lemon and a faint touch of herbs, verbena, apple butter and subtle leesy texture. I have discovered that the Cat Canyon vineyard, planted back in 1978, has classic California sandy loam soils and benefits from the Central Coast Pacific Ocean, with its cold water, influence and its cool climate, but sunny weather patterns. I also learned Cat Canyon is certified sustainable and is in the process of converting to organic, which I’m sure contributes to the quality and vibrant intensity here in Cody’s exceptional Chenin.

Being Desire Lines and winemaker Cody Rasmussen’s first foray into white wine from Santa Barbara County, he explains, this was both a challenging and exciting wine to make. Inspired by the Loire Valley versions, Rasmussen wanted to go traditional here with his new Chenin. He continues to say that the juice pressed out beautifully fresh and crisp, and after a short cold settle in tank he put it down to barrel for fermentation using an eclectic combination of second- and third-fill Stockinger Austrian oak 228L barrels, neutral 300L French puncheons, and neutral 320L cigar-shaped French puncheons. Ultimately, he ended up bottling just three of eight barrels, and the resulting wine is, as he puts it, absolutely fascinating “you can practically smell the brackish, salty sea breeze blowing in off the coast, landing gently on juicy green apples and salted lemon rinds.” all of which I found in there too! Rasmussen’s favorite French (Loire Valley) Chenin Blancs are those made from the hill of Breze (Saumur) by the likes of Thierry Germain, Romain Guiberteau, and Brendan Stater-West, and this wine he finishes, certainly speaks with the same vocabulary. I can’t recommend these Desire Lines wines highly enough, these are some of the best wines for the money in California and I wouldn’t wait long to get on their mailing list, especially for the fabulous Syrah bottlings and the Dry Rieslings in the collection, but also the Mourvedre and Carignan blend is a must try as well. This Chenin, which might not be a permanent wine for Desire Lines, is well worth looking for, it is right up there with some of the more interesting example of this grape, on par with some of my favorites, like Sandlands, Casa Nuestra, Jaimee Motely, Raj Parr, Leo Steen and Justin Willett’s Lieu-Dit to name a few.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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