Portland’s National #DrinkChenin Campaign Takes Flight

By Kaitlin Ohlinger, Foodable Contributor

Tom Monroe and Kate Norris of Division Winemaking Company thought “Drink Chenin” day sounded like fun. The second release of their Division-Villages “l’Isle Verte” Chenin Blanc was coming up and a night of drinking Chenin from around the globe at the winery seemed like a great way to engage their peers. Ideas were tossed around. Local McMinnville, Oregon artist Maija Rebecca created art for the event. Those local to the Portland area were promised a wine list with 16 featured Chenin Blancs open for enjoyment at the urban winery. Its roots were nothing but humble. For those that already know and love Chenin, this seems nothing but appropriate. 

A few weeks prior to the official Drink Chenin Day, social media posts started showing up from beyond Portland. What transpired was a flurry of activity that reached across the United States, all the way up the ranks to the Wall Street Journal. A total of 37 retailers and restaurants threw down the Chenin gauntlet and social media was abuzz with pictures and enthusiasm. All in all, a whopping success of a night for one grape, whose charms remain undiscovered by many. 

Why Chenin? 

What was it about Chenin? Tom explains: “While we were living in the Loire, we became more and more exposed to wines made from Chenin. What was and is so impressive and interesting is the range and uniqueness the varietal demonstrates. Everything from age worthy dessert and dry versions, to simple, crisp early-drinkers, to numerous types of sparklings… Chenin really does not display a clear boundary. I adored how the grape can have both richness and intensity, but with balancing acidity and weight. It's almost like Chenin is the offspring of Chardonnay and Riesling, two of my other favorites.”

Knowing the parallels that are drawn between Oregon and French climates, they anticipated Chenin would be common once they relocated to Oregon. Not so. Their hunt began, eventually leading them to 35-year old vines in the Yakima Valley. At just 170 cases, the 2014 “l’Isle Verte” sold out in a flash. A second Chenin, the Division "Savant,” due out this fall, is a dry, intense, Savennieres style wine.

DBGB Kitchen's #DrinkChenin Line Up | Twitter

DBGB Kitchen's #DrinkChenin Line Up | Twitter

What Made #DrinkChenin Day Take Off?

Tom credits his national wholesalers for taking interest in the idea and wanting to host their own events, inevitably leading to the national push. With a steadily evolving Somm/Wine Buyer culture that is not only willing, but excited to “beat the drum” of lesser-known regions, Chenin is a perfect fit.

Foodable’s own West Coast Editor Courtney Walsh took part in the event at her wine shop Buzz Wine Beer Shop in Downtown Los Angeles. “Chenin Blanc is one of my favorite varieties that doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves so I of course jumped at the idea to take part in #DrinkChenin day. To celebrate, we featured revolving surprise Chenin flights in which we included a number of our favorite Chenin Blancs. Guests didn’t know which Chenin they would receive when ordering the flight, which only added to the fun. The night was definitely a hit with our customers and we hopefully turned a few newcomers onto the magic that is Chenin Blanc.”

For all the “this day” and “that day” that exist in the world, #DrinkChenin captured an energy that lies within the food and beverage community. Its success was in its simplicity. Price of admission consisted of… drumroll please… opening some Chenin Blanc. For all its incessant chatter and meaningless noise, social media helped weave a rich web of common interest and instant kinship. Enthusiasm, excitement & community were alive and well from coast to coast on #DrinkChenin Day.