Last week I had the chance to meet with John Beckman from the Clarksburg Wine Company. He was stopping through on a trip as they work to bring their wines into new markets, notably the Virginia wine market. We tried a few wines, talked about the Clarksburg AVA, and the approach that they’re taking in making their wines.
For those unfamiliar with the area, it’s just south of Sacramento, but thanks to cool breezes off the San Francisco Bay, remains cooler than some of the nearby regions such as Livermore or Lodi. There are currently about 20,000 acres of grapes in the Appellation, with only about 20 wineries currently there.
Most of the wineries are small production operations, producing not much more than 1,000 cases a year, though the Clarksburg Wine Company is the exception, producing roughly 5,000 a year evenly split between red and white.
Historically, much of the grapes produced in the region end up going to Napa and Sonoma, but we’re starting to see more of the grapes in the region being turned into wine within the area instead of being bulked out elsewhere. As for the wines that John was kind enough to bring along for me to try, we sampled 9 different wines, 5 white and 4 red.
The whites consisted of the 2011 Delta Blanc (a blend incorporating Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay), the 2010 Pinot Gris, and three different Chenin Blancs – the 2010 Chenin Blanc, the 2012 Chenin Blanc/Viognier, and the 2010 Chenin Blanc VS. Chenin Blanc is what the region is known for, so it’s no surprise that they’re producing that many varieties of it.
Of the whites my two favorite were probably the base Chenin Blanc and the Chenin Blanc VS (the VS stands for Vouvray Style). The 2010 Chenin Blanc was nice and light, with crisp notes of lemon/lime. I found it nice and refreshing and would welcome it on a warm summer day here in Virginia. The 2010 Chenin Blanc VS is definitely more of a food wine, with more roundness to it and a bit of funk. I’d really like to pair it with some nice blue cheese.
The reds John brought for me to try were the 2011 Delta Rouge (a blend incorporating Pinot Noir and Grenache), the 2010 Cabernet Franc, the 2010 Remenance (a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon), and the 2010 Petite Sirah. I enjoyed all of the reds to be honest, though the Cabernet Franc and Remenance really jumped out for me.
Notes of cherry, bell pepper, and an overall herbaceousness on the Cab Franc made me crave a steak to pair with it. It was a stark departure from the Cab Franc we make in Virginia, with much more body than you tend to see from the grape here.
The Remenance was everything I liked about the Cab Franc, but more subtle and muted. It was softer in the mouth and admittedly easier to sip on without craving food.
The wines range in price from $15 up to $30, making them nice and affordable. I for one plan to revisit some of these after tracking them down in my local market (there will be an email to the distributor for Clarksburg Wine Company going out shortly to find out where I can find it). I very much liked what I tasted and look forward to trying some more wines from the Clarksburg Wine Company and the region in general.
My thanks to John Beckman for taking time out to meet with me and for letting me try some of his great wines.