Cheap Wine That Doesn't Suck

No wine gets a blanc stare faster than Chenin Blanc. It may be the white wine grape of France's Loire Valley, but in these parts, you see it about as often as snow drifts on Ocean Drive. It had a few minutes of fame in the 1960s and 1970s and showed up in more than its share of cheap white wine blends, but unless you go to South Africa or France, your chances of finding Chenin Blanc as a standalone varietal are pretty small. 

This is really quite the pisser, as Chenin Blanc can be made in a variety of styles, from wickedly sweet to dry as a desert sandstorm, and is eminently drinkable in all of them. Delightfully in the middle of those two extremes is the 2008 Chenin Blanc, from Sonoma's Dry Creek Vineyards, one of the few domestic wineries to bottle it on its own. It sells for around $12 most places -- $9.99 at Total Wine & More -- but drinks like it costs a lot more. 

Splash some in a glass and you'll get a good whiff of classic Chenin Blanc -- a bit floral, some ripe peaches and apricots, soft lemon-lime acidity, plus subtle earthy, minerally components. Take a sip and all those flavors roll around and around in your mouth -- "mouth filling," as cork dorks put it -- leaving your taste buds to savor a long, cleansing, lemon-lime finish.  

I served it with quick-fried chow mein with chicken, veggies, and Chinese Lap Xuong sausage, but it would play well with just about any Asian cuisine, as well spicy Mexican dishes or something as simple as roasted chicken. Really, when it comes to pairing this Dry Creek chenin with food, all you have to do is fill in the blanc.

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Bill Citara