Maître de Chai, "Wilson Vineyard" Sparkling Chenin Blanc MV
Chenin Blanc | Clarksburg, California
As fans of this wine from previous year's offerings may recall, I discovered this gem while helping to open a prestigious Mission-district restaurant in SF in 2019, what now feels like a decade ago! Ever since then Maître de Chai's sparkling has been one of the most exciting finds in California sparkling wine, and I literally thirst for its annual release.
For fans of dry, brisk sparkling, it's all here: grapefruit zest, lime peel, crushed-rock salinity, nectarine pit, and a dry, bright lemony finish. Approachable, great as an evening aperitif, amazing with food – it fires on all cylinders. Just writing about it makes my mouth water!
As in years past, the Chenin comes from the estimable Wilson Vineyard, part of the family-owned Woods Ranch just south of Clarksburg in the Sacramento River Delta area. The San Francisco Chronicle calls it "one of California’s most overlooked wine regions." Still owned today by the Wilson family, the special vines of Chenin Blanc are organically farmed; in the winemakers' words the fruit produces consistently "electric acidity." For years the large, corporate-owned wineries have bought fruit from them for its vibrance and freshness; unfortunately it all tends to go into mass-market blends. Not here, though – Maître de Chai showcases its deliciousness in this single-vineyard bottling.
Maître de Chai is "cellar master" in French, and winemakers Marty Winters and Alex Pitts are indeed masters of their craft. This wine is produced in the méthode traditionelle – the very same method as Champagne. Their aim is to to let the terroir speak for itself with as little intervention as possible. With just 2 grams of dosage, this is an "extra brut" in spirit; it's all about naked terroir and pure Chenin character.
Very few cases are produced in any given vintage, most of it poured by-the-glass at fine dining establishments and neighborhood wine bars in California.
Put aside the big-name, mass-produced California sparkling wines and discover this mouth-watering, electric, bone-dry organic sparkler from the hands of two talented indie winemakers!