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2012 Roark Wine Company Chenin Blanc

I met Ryan Roark about three years ago at a party hosted by mutual friends. We struck up a conversation about wine, and I learned that Roark, despite his youthful appearance, already had several vintages under his belt, both locally and in New Zealand.

He is a winemaker who has learned from the ground up: Having worked for other small producers, Roark has jumped head first into every step required of good winemaking, including time and experience in vineyards and the hard work of cellars.

After we met, a couple of years passed, but early this year at the Solvang Garagiste event I found Roark pouring three of his latest vintages: Chenin blanc, cabernet franc and a grenache syrah blend. Friends and I compared notes after the event, and all of us agreed that Roark’s wines were stand outs in the crowd.

Fast forward to this week, when two friends and I grabbed salads at the Los Olivos Cafe and Wine Merchant. We ordered a bottle of Roark’s 2012 Chenin Blanc, which paired perfectly with our various salads.

The wine, released in March of this year, is young but not overly so, with a firm finish and lots of honeysuckle and mouth-puckering fresh citrus along the palate.

Tonight I paired it with mahi mahi steamed with lemon, which heightened the crisp backbone of the wine and drew out its tartness. Try it by itself or with hard cheeses, or a moderately spiced grilled fish or sushi.

Contact Ryan at ryanellisroark@gmail.com for by-appointment tastings.

Website: www.roarkwineco.com and Twitter @roarkwineco. Phone: (805) 736.8000.

Case production (Chenin Blanc and Ryan’s two current red wines) is approximately 1,000. The release date for the 2012 Chenin Blanc was March 2013. Retail: $18 (at Los Olivos Cafe and Wine Merchant).