Wine Review: Vinum Cellars Chenin Blanc Clarksburg 2014

vinum cheninVinum has a long track record producing wine from this grape that deserves far more attention than it receives in the U.S.  2014 is their 17h vintage from these grapes grown in the Sacramento River Delta. It’s hot there but cool, nighttime breezes from San Francisco Bay keep fresh acidity in the grapes.

The aromas of crushed rock, pear, lemon and lavender are pretty but this wine’s charm is really in the caressing mouth feel that manages to be both light, crisp and viscous, exuding minerality but with slight honeyed notes that lend a touch of sweetness. Orange zest blooms on the midpalate but the emphasis is on the floral and mineral spectrum. It finishes long and cool, with a spine like pure spring water.

Relatively small production of 2500 cases.

Score: 88

Price: $16

Alc: 13.5%

The sweet, languid,  but crisply pulsating sound of Bebel Gilberto captures the mood.


  1. This wine seems intriguing. Your description of the mouthfeel is thought-provoking. In general, a viscous substance is something that is thick, syrupy and slow-flowing (honey, molasses). If my memory from Freshman chemistry is accurate, viscosity is a measure of resistance to flow–some highly viscous substances are closer to solids than liquids.

    I know viscosity plays an important role in wine, but I am not sure how it relates to certain elements of wine–structure, mouth feel, actual taste of the wine. It makes sense that viscous wines are dense and behave and feel differently in the mouth than non-viscous ones. If so, a viscous mouth-feel would seem to be the polar opposite of a light and crisp white wine like Chenin Blanc. But, as your blog has nicely pointed out in the past, many interesting wines are a surprising clash of elements.

    Your quasi-paradoxical description above–both light and crisp and viscous–strikes a chord with me because I have had the same experience with some styles of Torrontes from Argentina: Light, crisp and refreshing with a notable presence of weight and roundness (viscosity?) which are typically missing in light-bodied whites like Chenin Blanc (and certainly Italian whites like Vermentino or Soave). Semillon and Viognier, if I am not mistaken, are solid examples of viscous wines without being light and crisp.
    So how does a quintessentially light-bodied wine like Chenin Blanc manage to produce these opposing qualities? What is the trick? Is it the high level of alcohol that creates a “viscous” veneer while retaining the light and delicate crispness? Perhaps it is a sensory illusion of sorts. I am wondering if it could be achieved with lard or ketchup? I tried a light, savory curry ketchup on a burger one time but it was not crisp.

  2. Hi Stephen,
    I’ll have to try ketchup the next time I find a wine too thin.

    I agree about Torrontes. It often has that same character. It is mouth-coating initially despite finishing crisp. I suspect it comes from leaving just the right amount of sugar in the wine to balance the acidity. Prominent acidity gives the impression of leanness; leaving some sugar gives the impression of roundness and weight. Chenin Blanc, remember, is not always dry. In some sub-regions of the Loire the best examples are off-dry to sweet. The Vinum is not sweet but appears to have some RS.

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