In the South, Clarksville is one of the historic homes of the blues.
In the West, Clarksburg is a California winegrowing region that in recent years finally has been garnering the recognition it deserves.
Grapes have been grown in Clarksburg — part of California’s Delta region near the state capital of Sacramento — for generations. But for most of that time, because the region didn’t have the name recognition of Napa Valley or Sonoma County, the grapes were used in cuvees that carried other appellation names or the more generic “California” designation.
One might think of those grapes as “silent partners.” You don’t necessarily know they are there, but they’re very important to the overall endeavor — in this case, making fine wine.
Harvest time is when the Clarksburg area really struts its stuff. The cool fall weather brings much beauty to the vineyards, as the grapevine leaves turn brilliant shades of red, orange, gold and purple. After most of the grapes have been brought in, some of the fruit remains on the vines, destined for sweet “late harvest” bottlings.
The vineyards are tucked between the waterways and tributaries of the Sacramento River and its vast levee system that nourishes the rich farm land. The region is bordered by Interstate 5 (California’s main north-south thoroughfare) on the east and the Sacramento Deep Water Channel on the west.
Warm summer days and cool nights typify the Clarksburg climate during the long, dry growing season – prime conditions for producing perfectly ripened grapes. More than 25 varieties are farmed there, with most of the acreage devoted to Chardonnay, Merlot, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Gris.
Chenin Blanc is a particular standout, and the wine clubs of Vinesse have featured Clarksburg Chenin Blanc bottlings regularly through the years — some with the Clarksburg designation, and some with “California” on the label.
Under-appreciated varieties, in particular, can be almost invisible in underappreciated wine regions such as Clarksburg.
There must be a blues song in there somewhere…