2016 St. Rey Pet’Nat Chenin Blanc
Region: Clarksburg < CA
Grapes: Chenin Blanc
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Certified organic farming, sandy clay soils; dry-farmed, foot trodden; no added SO2; 52 cases; 11% ABV
Winemaker: Craig Haarmeyer
Craig Haarmeyer has no formal wine education or training, but we think he’s making some of the most interesting and honest wines in California. His parents had restaurants and a wine shop, so he grew around the biz, and started fermenting anything and everything in college. That evolved into helping out at a family friends’ winery in grad school, then realizing he could make wine himself. He also slid slowly into natural wine making, he says, “because I made the modern wines for years and realized that those wines don’t hold up, don’t interest me, don’t taste, smell or feel like the wines I grew up on. All of the wines I like to drink and admire are made with little or no ‘winemaking’. Plus, for me it is important to achieve an aesthetic of natural beauty in everything I make, including wine.” The grapes for this Pet’Nat come from the Clarksburg AVA near Sacramento, far down where the wet marine air pours in. He picks early based on acidity, and makes 3 or 4 passes through the vineyard, first for this Pet’Nat pick, then for the SRV Chenin (also in this mix). Made in the ancestral method for bubbly (one fermentation in bottle, capped before it completes, trapping the natural co2), this is what is a zero-input wine. He says, “we pick, tread, press, ferment, bottle, riddle, disgorge and that’s it. No additions of any kind.” It is bone dry, almost austere upon popping. But give it an hour to open up, and you get all of that Chenin chalkiness and acid, rounded out with beautiful lemon curd and D’Anjou pear notes (the green, firm kind not the squishy, soft Bartlett kind). It’s elegant, brisk and steely, rather than cloudy, funky and cidery, as some Pet’Nats tend to be. Not that we’re knocking funky ones – you know we love our cloudy fizz – but this one is perfect for Thanksgiving, when you’re sharing with unsuspecting relations over pre-feast snacks. And it is the most perfect OYSTER wine – drink this with oysters!