Another interesting place to visit in the Sacramento Delta is The Old Sugarmill, in Clarksburg, California. This is a wine co-operative where you can taste wines from the many wine producers in the area. The website boasts 14 wineries. There are beautifully-designed tasting rooms in the main building.
There are several other buildings on the property. They get opened up to events, as needed. On the day that we visited, there was a small-winery popup happening in one of the other buildings.
In one of my previous posts about a dinner that Elke and I had at Costanoa, I referenced an Aperature 2019 Chenin Blanc, from Clarksburg, that was bitter and awful. It surprised us both because it was served as a pairing on a nice pre fixe menu. After that dinner, I wondered to myself if Chenin Blanc wine always tastes bitter. Did you know that the main Chenin Blanc growing regions in the world are South Africa, Australia, and Clarksburg, California? This trip was a perfect opportunity to do a little research into the question of what a Chenin Blanc should taste like.
Our first tasting was at Draconis Winery tasting room. Elke and I both tend to prefer red wine over white wine. When we are searching for that perfect glass of wine, we like to use words like, “big and bold, yet smooth,” “less acidic,” “thick and viscous,” and “flavor that lights up all the taste buds”. At this winery, our sommelier began enticing us with all of these words. He was speaking our language! As we tasted these drinkable and delicious wines, he told us how Draconis uses an old-world process that takes longer to make the wine but produces big, bold, jammy wines with less acidity and remarkable flavors. Elke and I recommend all of the Draconis Wines we tasted.
I asked the Sommelier about Chenin Blanc wines. I told him about our bad experience and asked him if bitterness is a flavor that we should expect from a Chenin Blanc. He told us that some Chenin Blanc aficionados like the more grassy flavors, which can impart a slight bitterness. He said that this is not true for all Chenin Blanc. He recommended that we walk next door to the Clarksburg Wine Company, which has won awards for their Chenin Blanc. How lucky we were to be in the perfect place to find the answer to our questions about Chenin Blanc!
The Clarksburg Wine Company has a lovely little tasting room within The Old Sugarmill. Here, we met the manager, Susan, who was delighted to hear that we were researching Chenin Blanc. She dispelled any notion that Chenin Blanc is known for its bitterness. She gave us a couple of tastings that were simply delicious – crisp, light, fruity, almost tropical, and very drinkable. There wasn’t any of the bitterness that we had tasted before. She told us that, while the glass of Aperature 2019 may have included grapes from Clarksburg, California, she was not aware of the label. Maybe the grapes were not that good. Maybe the maker didn’t know how to make a good Chenin Blanc. Maybe the seal was broken on the bottle, and the wine went bad. One thing is certain. The Chenin Blanc that we had at the Clarksburg Wine Company was very good!