TNs: Battle of the Chenins -- Lambert v. Sandlands

The start of fall had me thinking about Chenin Blanc. Two bottles to go with homemade chicken francese.

2015, Arnaud Lambert, Saumur Blanc, Clos de la Rue
Wow. An eye-opener for me and one of my 10 white wines of the year. I don’t have a ton of experience with Loire whites but this bottle grabbed me by the scruff and forced me to pay attention. It challenged my assumptions about chenin blanc being a softer varietal with floral/lanolin/waxy notes. The nose is rich, open and somewhat floral but you also smell the minerals at play. But then cognitive dissonance kicks in with your first sip. The wine is chiseled, ripped and sinewy. It’s a pacing tiger that’s ready to pounce, packed with green apples and dried apricot and chalky limestone. It’s like Puligny mixed with speed – there’s such tension and acidity to cut all the dry extract. It’s medium weight, with a kiss of oak at the start and a sweep of cleansing acids on the long finish. The push-pull of flavors and tactile sensations leaves you in a somewhat perplexed but happy state. What is this stuff, you wonder. The wine is revelatory now, but it will be fascinating to watch this morph over the next 10 years. From a single walled vineyard on the fabled Breze hill. Bravo!
2016, Sandlands, Chenin Blanc, California
I tried this side by side with the Lambert. Not a fair fight – Marvin Hagler vs. Hillary Swank. The wine actually looked almost exactly like the Breze, but this is much softer in the mouth. Lots of lemon chiffon and a bit of wooliness. But not a ton of grip or rockiness. It’s a well-made, pleasing wine, but it felt like something I should be enjoying with picnic food on a hot night at the Hollywood Bowl. After the Lambert, the Sandlands seemed to lack grandeur and ambition. Again, totally not fair to the wine. Different terroirs, different winemaking philosophies. Judgment reserved until I can get at it in a different context.

Pop and pour on each. $50 for the Lambert, $40 for the Sandlands.

Thanks for the comparison. I love the Sandlands, we drank a 2014 this past week. I will have to source some Lambert, based on your description I think I would enjoy it.

While I love Sandlands reds, I cannot for the life of me work up any enthusiasm for the Chenins.

Honestly, I thought that with the first one I had. Then I realized they need some time in the cellar to mellow a bit. How old were the bottles you tried?

Arnaud Lambert is making awesome wines under the Chateau de Breze and Saint Just labels. The clos de la rue always reminds me of white burgundy. Very clean wine making and the fruit has a fine mineral streak to it. I love it, but I sometimes crave the more wild pithy fruit of other chenin producers.

I pithy Lambert for not having more wild fruit. [snort.gif]

I thought you don’t care for Chenin in general David?

I like a good Huet or Chidaine. I have yet to be convinced by any American Chenin Blanc.

While I like the Chenin from Sandlands, it doesn’t “wow” me like any of the reds…that said, I’ll keep buying simply because they’re always such a great QPR in CA white.

Thanks for the taste-off, Matthew!!! [cheers.gif]

I am sadly ignorant of most “Old World” Chenin Blanc wines. I have loved the steely, tight ones I have tasted, as well as the softer, more pillowy interpretations.

Do the Sandlands Chenin Blanc bottlings generally show better in their youth (relatively speaking) versus after a couple of years from release?

I recently opened a 14 Sandlands Chenin Amador side by side with a 14 Guiberteau Saumur. My outcome was the same as Matthew’s.

Feel that way pretty much about ALL California chenin. :frowning:

Had a glass of the 16 Saint Just les perrieres last night. Was very nice. Saw it was $19/btl. Seems like a good deal!

If those French guys started using names that Americans could say and remember, California would be in big trouble.

So do I.

If you guys dont appreciate Sandlands chenin theres something wrong with you. I dare you to find a 13 Amador and tell me you dont like it.

I still need to get me some Leo Steen chenin. That stuff sounds incredible!

Yeah, I generally find non French Chenin to be kinda soft.

I find it soft and bland.

This is true to my experience. I’ve tried 11-14 and would rank them 13>11>>12>14.

I’m also looking to get a taste of the Steen.

Tonight I had my second go around with 2017 Rucksack CB from Carson Road in Apple Hill, El Dorado County in Sierra Foothills.

Low alcohol, lean, acidic, with melon and tarragon on a long and chiseled finish. Really long finish with presence. A great Chenin nose too with clear notes of very dry fruits and spice. Organic fruit and a reasonable $24. An organic side project from Madrona winery on decomposed granite at almost 3000 feet. Rucksack remains my favorite non Loire CB. 94 points and a beauty.

Seek this out. Here are the 16 specs.