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Road 13 are the Chenin Masters.
Wine writing is by definition a subjective pursuit: some people like sweet, some tart, some rich, some lean. But even within this wide arena of tastes there are some undeniable truisms. Like that the Chenin Blanc grape is precisely 2.8 times superior to the Viognier grape.
Wait….I’m just getting word that this isn’t technically a “fact” outside of my own wine fridge. But I do have passionate belief that if more people gave Chenin Blanc a try they would be converts to this criminally under-loved grape that can succeed in such a wide range of styles that it’s like the Paul Giamatti of grapes. Part of the problem lies in access to the grape: South Africa is a powerhouse, but we don’t see enough of their wines here. And the Loire Valley of France, the grape’s spiritual home (often labelled Vouvray, Anjou or Savennieres), produces sublime wines that are also trickier to locate here and can get pricey for someone in experimentation mode (although they’re a steal compared to White Burgundy). In the Okanagan you have Quails’ Gate, who’ve long made a excellent version, but it’s Road 13 that’s our Province’s (and our Country’s) standard-bearer for Chenin (insider note, unlike Sauvignon Blanc with Chenin Blanc you drop the “blanc” part to show you know what’s what). They have Chenin vines that were planted in 1968 and in many ways they set the stylistic tone for much of the winery’s offerings.
This bottle is the entry level and it’s just about perfect for that. It highlights all the things that are great about Chenin—Granny Smith apple, quince—but it still keeps the grape’s natural acidity in check with a small touch of sweetness. And at $17 (until May 1 at BC Liquor stores) it is truly one of the best deals for any white wine in the Okanagan right now). But my guess is once you try this you’ll be enchanted and anxious to move on to the next step.
That’s where a wine that takes advantage of those 53-year old vibes comes in. Road 13’s Sparkling Chenin 2015 is also on sale for April for $35 and it dials down the riper fruit notes—the tangy, waxy quince steps up, and there’s more citrus—and lets the acidity roll. It never gets too much but it keeps this wine balanced a sharp line of craft.
And if you want your PhD in North American Chenin, they also have a 2011 version at the winery that a cool $87 that’s off-the-charts good. If you’re interested I can’t recommend a better journey.