Wine of the week: Lang & Reed 2019 Mendocino Chenin Blanc
John Skupny doesn’t sleep well on windy nights. He’s fearful a fiery tempest might light up the sky.
“The damage and loss that very close friends and colleagues have endured from the fires are still hurting us deeply and will likely scare us all for many years,” said the vintner of Napa Valley’s Lang & Reed. “The wildfires have made us acutely aware of our fragile ecosystem and the devastating effects of climate change.”
Skupny is behind our wine of the week winner — the Lang & Reed, 2019 Mendocino Chenin Blanc, 13%, $30. It’s an aromatic chenin blanc with notes of white peach and honeysuckle. Flavors on the palate include melon, peach and mineral. It’s refreshing, light and lively and balanced with crisp acidity. This nimble chenin blanc is striking.
Other tasty exotic whites include Anaba, 2019 Landa Vineyard, Sonoma Valley Viognier, 13.9%, $36; Rodney Strong Vineyards’ Upshot, 2019 California White Wine Blend, 13%, $19; Tablas Creek, 2019 Adelaida District, Central Coast Grenache Blanc, 13.5%, $30, and Dutton Goldfield, 2018 Chileno Valley Vineyard, Petaluma Gap Riesling, 13%, $30.
As for the winning Lang & Reed, Skupny said the house style is still a bit of a mystery.
“We’re inspired by the chenin from the Loire Valley in France, but also South Africa and other places like Long Island,” the vintner said. “The range is huge with chenin, but it’s clear that chenin has a very distinct personality wherever it is grown. We’re still tinkering to find the nuance and attributes that make up the California North Coast chenin personality.”
While there are several challenges in making this left-of-center varietal, Skupny said the most crucial is pinpointing quality, because the fruit is elusive on the North Coast.
“Then you have to figure out at that moment if there’s enough ripeness to make a complete and complex wine without losing verve, or the inherent energy, of chenin,” he said.
Chenin blanc originally took root in the Loire Valley of France, and it’s a versatile grape. It can produce sparkling, still, dry and sweet wines.
“In the last few years, there’s a renaissance of interest, especially amongst young winemakers, in crafting interesting expressions of chenin,” the vintner said.
Skupny, 67, is the proprietor and winemaker for Lang & Reed, which specializes in chenin blanc and cabernet franc. The vintner founded the winery with his wife, Tracey, in 1993, and they named the label after their two sons, Lang and Reed. Following his father’s footsteps into the family business, Reed, now 38, also is a winemaker.
“When the nation shut down, I was worried,” Skupny said. “But as a family we gathered and came up with solutions that helped soften that loss.”
The family pivoted, embracing consumers directly by opening a tasting salon last year at 1200 Oak Ave. in St. Helena which is able to accommodate modest outdoor tastings. In addition, Reed’s wife, Megan, created a series of short video cooking sessions called “SIP & Savour” (langandreed.com/sipandsavour).
“The pandemic has driven home the point that wine is a shared experience,” Skupny said, “and one that we sorely have missed with friends and family for a year now.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-521-5310.
Wine, The Press Democrat
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