The wine: At Ease Wine Project 2020 Chenin Blanc, Solano County Green Valley
The place: https://ateasewine.square.site/, and now on the Goose and Gander Saint Helena wine list
The price: $28
This decadent and golden Chenin is made from grapes with a very unique story. Winemaker Derek Baljeu sources this fruit from the Biggs Vineyard in Green Valley, a small, family-owned plot with Chenin vines 50+ years old. Baljeu explained that the winds in this valley spike to such high speeds during the late growing season that the vines shut down a portion of the ripening process, which allows the fruit to continue developing in phenolic and acidic complexity without sugar content getting too high. This creates a seriously delicious wine – the hue is somewhere between a yellow-gold sunshine and a pale amber. The mouthfeel is creamy but not overly so, and the tiny touch of sweetness on the finish is welcomed because the acid is still there.
On the nose, I get light honey, butterscotch, and lemon curd. The mouth is very complex – candied walnuts/nuts, candied fruit (pineapple), very light floral notes such as apple or lemon blossom, and fruits cantaloupe and peach. Overall this wine is very fruity and has what I would describe as a round favor profile. It’s honestly delicious.
I chose to pair this wine with savory and salty foods such as the salty, crumbly “Unexpected Cheddar Cheese” from Trader Joe’s, and their asiago cheese with rosemary and olive oil. The creaminess of the wine balances out the sharpness of a hard cheese and the two textures pair beautifully. I could also enjoy this wine with a duck paté with fig jam and toast points. For something more bold, try pairing with a Thai cashew nut chicken dish to really enhance the subtle sweetness of the wine. This wine is full bodied but delicate at the same time – you would not want to overpower it with a strong meal. Oysters would be a good pair as well.
Baljeu is a talented young professional in the industry and makes wine in Napa with grapes from both the North and Central Coast AVAs. He studied winemaking at UC Davis and has a vast range of experience in both the vineyard and cellar operations of the wine industry. I’m excited to see what the 2021 harvest brings for At Ease!