Dry Creek Vineyards Chenin Rocks!

So today, Don, one of my wine salesmen, brought by several Dry Creek Vineyard wines.  The ’09 Chenin Blanc, Fume Blanc and the ’07 Cabernet.  The whites were just what I was looking for as we head into spring, and the price made my choice even easier.  I was struck by the thought that many California vineyards charge way to much for the more obscure white varietals.  Now, I know that Chenin is pretty common, especially as Vouvray.  I sell two South African versions at $8.99, and a proper Vouvray, Bove, which is my personal favorite ($12.99).  Now, at my shop in Greenfield, we are usually a bit behind the curve when it comes to the “hot trends” in wine.  These trends hit the cities first, and make their way out slowly – that’s normal everywhere, I would imagine.  Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay are my best selling whites, followed by Sauv Blanc, and Reisling.  Anything else I usually only carry one or two different kinds, like Gavi, Trebbiano, Chenin Blanc, and Gewurtz.  Just about everything else in white, I only carry one – like Albarino, Soave, and Gruner.  White blends are the kiss of death – I think because you never know what you’re going to get when you open it – sweet, dry, acidic, perfumey… they are all over the map.

But back to my point – there are some great white varietals in California that are just too expensive for the normal wine consumer to take a chance on.  Roussanne comes to mind.  I have tasted some sublime examples from California – but they all seem to be above the $15 range.  Now people are willing to take a chance on something that is around $10 – albeit based on a review or staff recommendation.  But you get over $15, and forget about it – you may be able to sell it with a tasting, but you can’t have a bottle open all the time.  And forget about French and Italian whites that are off the beaten path.  Sometimes I even have a hard time selling the $7.99 ones!

Moscato has become a very popular white these days.  Why?  Because you can buy a bottle for $5.  Now the wines at this price level are not fantastic, but they create a demand.  It is much easier to recommend a Moscato d’asti to someone who has had a Moscato before, and has an idea what to expect.  I know certain varietals are hard to grow, or are only grown in small quantities, so that lends itself to a higher price.  But even producing a small amount at an “intro” price would encourage consumers to expand their horizons.  Big stores call this a “loss leader”.

So, I tasted a very nice Chenin Blanc from Dry Creek Vineyards that I can sell for $9.99, and help promote one of my favorite white grapes.  The Fume Blanc is the same price, and for an appelation wine, that’s a great deal from a quality winery with a proven track record.  It’s my opinion that there is no reason to spend more than $20 for a Californian Sauv Blanc, and wines of this quality at this price just solidifies that premise (more to come on that opinion later).

The verdict?  Less popular white wines need to be cheaper to introduce themselves to the everyday wine buyer.  We would all benefit.

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