Julietta Winery was a cute little surprise during my last adventure into the tiny Clarksburg AVA of Yolo County. The little shack of a venue seems a mirage amongst the vast fields of farmland. Indeed, outside of the Sugar Mill — which boasts several wineries sharing one crush pad — there seems to be a distinct lack of stand-alone wineries. But, as with most boutique experiences, that just means when you walk in, you’re greeted by Julie and her husband and treated like part of the Clarksburg community — even if you are just passing through.
About the Wine: Established as an American Viticultural Area in 1985, Clarksburg is marked by its location along the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which pulls in ocean breezes and creates a cool maritime climate. Fertile, low-draining soils allow the little wine region to produce 45,000 tons of grapes each year. Here the main “heritage grape” is Chenin Blanc — a varietal just as over-looked as the AVA itself.
90 percent of the grapes grown in Clarksburg are sold outside the county, predominantly to neighboring Napa Valley. But you’d never know it. As long as Clarksburg fruit makes up less than 25 percent of the final wine, the winery can still put “Napa Valley” on the label.
Admittedly, the region has been gaining some recent recognition — a few producers are now proudly stamping the “Clarksburg” name on their white wines.
About the Winery: Julie and her husband, Craig, are among the newest kids on the Clarksburg block, having officially opened their winery 2½ years ago. Craig, a Napa County native, grew up in a family of vintners, but followed a different career path, establishing his own general contracting business. It was Craig’s mother, Beverly, who encouraged the couple to transform the family’s Clarksburg property — an unplanted 12-acre lot with an old barn used for storage — into a winery.
Clarksburg’s small-town quaintness extends to the Julietta tasting room, where the walls are decorated with works by local artists. Lounge chairs and sofas invite lingering. Outside, visitors can enjoy the bocce ball court, putting green and picnic area — and, of course, the bucolic serenity of the Clarksburg countryside. The Russells are often behind the bar, greeting regulars by name and welcoming those just passing through as if they, too, are part of the Clarksburg community.
During my visit, Julie poured a full lineup of her current releases including this crisp Clarksburg Chenin Blanc.
Flavor Profile: Oh the scent of fresh air that just rushes up out the bottle when you open Julietta’s Chenin Blanc. Go ahead, put your nose right above the neck and take a deep breath in. It’s as crisp and clean as fresh laundry hanging out to dry in a spring breeze. But even from this angle, you can smell there’s something deeper, rounder, fuller going on in the wine — and it’s absolutely appetizing.
On the pour and in the glass the Chenin Blanc is an unmistakable straw color. Look at it closely after it settles into the glass: there are tiny little bubbles, giving the wine kind of a textural look. The aromatics from the glass, again, are of fresh air, here with hints of dew drops and subtle scents of apples and pears — though not fruit-forward by any means. Swirl and place your nose at the top of the glass: here you will find stronger fruit notes, but overall the wine emits more savory, herbal scents: lemongrass, green onion, chives, dill, even catnip.
On the palate, there’s no denying that Julietta’s Chenin Blanc is a crisp white wine, but it’s got a body to it, a substance, that makes it so much more than a “thirst-quencher.” It’s the background flavor and texture of soft nuts (think cashews), raw honey, and maybe the slightest hint of flakey pastry. Certain sips will remind you of sea-salt air. And its that bubbly effervescence and kicky acidity that will remain with you even after the finish, making this Chenin Blanc the perfect warm-weather and food-pairing wine.
Food Pairing: This is a fun wine. Yes it has body and structure, but I encourage you to keep the food-pairing as light and lively as possible. Think summer: it’s hot — so you don’t want anything heavy with overpowering flavors or textures. Personally, I paired my Julietta Winery 2015 Chenin Blanc with a turkey and cheese deli sandwich and a Caesar side-salad. Perfect pairing? Absolutely.
More Info: Snippets of this review have been pulled from my full Clarksburg article. Please read the full review for Julietta Winery (among others) on SFChronicle.com: Clarksburg AVA the little wine-growing region that could.
I purchased Julietta Winery 2015 Chenin Blanc at the winery. Retail: $24. To learn more about Julietta Winery and plan your visit, please visit the Julietta Winery website.
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