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- The term "aperture" is typically employed in the world of
photography, as it refers to the opening of a len's diaphragm
Photographers will speak about f-stops as this refers to how wide the
opening on the lens is set.
So why would someone name their winery "Aperture"? Maybe
because winemaker Jesse Katz has a famous photographer father, Andy
Katz. The senior Katz grew up enthralled by the world of photography
and has, indeed, traveled around the world with his camera. Aside
from having his work on some record album covers (Dan Fogelberg and the
Doobie Brothers), he's got more than a dozen coffee-table books to his
- Jesse accompanied his Pop on numerous trips from their Colorado
home-base and so he was able to visit not only Napa and Sonoma, but
Burgundy and Bordeaux along with other far-flung places.
In Burgundy, as a youngster, he noticed how wines tasted differently
simply based upon the location of the vineyard site. As a kid,
having been to Bordeaux, he was enchanted by the various red and white
wines made by top châteaux there.
Katz studied class-room winemaking at Fresno State and then got himself an
internship in Argentina at the Noemia winery. He came back to
California and worked at the Robert Foley in Napa before packing his bags
and heading back to Argentina to work the harvest at Paul Hobbs' Viña
Cobos. Somewhere along the line he also interned at the famous
Pomerol estate of Château Petrus. Coming back to Napa, he worked a
harvest at Screaming Eagle and then was tabbed to be the winemaker at
Sonoma's Roth Estate Winery and neighboring Lancaster Estate.
During his tenure at those wineries, he launched his own brands, creating
the Aperture project along with one focusing on Malbec (called Devil's
Proof...really expensive Malbec!). He's got some high-power financial
backers in this endeavor, partnering with Jim Crane, owner of the Houston Astros
baseball team along with some other affluent backers who are wine
The winery is located north of the Rodney Strong winery and south of
Foppiano Vineyards. They invested in 40 acres of prospective
vineyard and winery land, along with their leading another 50 acres to
allow for expanding their production.
Katz was enthralled with the white wine made in Bordeaux at Château Haut
Brion. He imports barrels which have French oak staves, but,
unusually, barrels heads made of Acacia wood.
The grapes comes from a vineyard site in Sonoma's Bennett Valley. We
recall early vintages of winemaker Merry Edwards' "Matanzas
Creek" Sauvignon Blanc which we think came from this area.
Quite special, as it's a cool site requiring longer hang time for the
fruit to mature.
The grapes are whole-cluster pressed and then the juice is settled in
stainless steel. They rack the clear juice off the heavy sediment
and allow it to warm a bit so the indigenous yeasts can get to work.
About halfway through the fermentation, it's transferred into
barrel. One third into neutral, seasoned cooperage, one-third into
once-used barrels and the remaining third goes into brand new cooperage.
The barrels are topped weekly once the fermentation stops and they do stir
the lees which contributes a bit of toastiness.
The wine does resemble a white Bordeaux, so he's done a good job in
creating a California Sauvignon (which has a drop of Semillon in the
blend) that tips its chapeau to those top whites from France's
Pessac-Léognan region. Happily, the wine is reasonably-priced so
you don't have to drop a hundred bucks (or more!) to enjoy this terrific
Currently in stock: 2019 APERTURE "Sonoma
County" SAUVIGNON BLANC $39.99 (last bottles)
- This little enterprise is the work of Dan Petroski, who until recently
had his day job at the Larkmead winery making Cabernets.
The Massican project was a bit more than a hobby, but a smallish
production of white wines only. It's named after Monte
Massico, a place north of Naples in Italy where his great grandfather
had lived. In his youth he'd traveled around Italy and was
enthralled with the culture and wine. In fact, he spent a harvest
season at a Sicilian winery. He was bored with his life in New York
after his college studies and came to California and interning at some
wineries in Sonoma before landing a gig at Napa's Larkmead
We've enjoyed a couple of white wines from Petroski as he makes a white
wine blend called Annia that features Tocai Friulano, Ribolla Gialla and a
bit of Chardonnay. These are grape varieties you'll find in Italy's
Friuli region and it's been a pretty cool wine. If it's not absurdly
priced on a restaurant wine list, we will sometimes order a bottle.
In fact, we blew the minds of some Friulian friends a few years ago when
they visited San Francisco and we saw it on a City restaurant wine list.
Another variety that does well in Friuli is Sauvignon Blanc. There
are some pretty good Sauvignons made there.
And Massican does a good job with Napa Valley fruit.
They have a remarkable bit of information about the 2020 vintage
on their website.
Can you imagine that? The vineyards are warmest during the
day and coolest at night!!!
More wineries should try that!
The 2020 is quite dry and nicely acidic. There's a stony, almost
flinty character to this wine. We find it a bit less herbal or grassy than
some of the Friulian Sauvignons we like, but it's a good bottle of wine in any
Currently in stock: MASSICAN 2020 Napa Valley
SAUVIGNON BLANC Sale $29.99
PIED à TERRE
York sommelier Richard Luftig is the engine that powers this little,
blow-the-radar brand from Sonoma.
Luftig lamented that he couldn't find affordable California Cabernet and
that led him to Sonoma and winemaker Clay Mauritson who's the enologist in
We've had a few vintages of Luftig's Pied-à-Terre Cabernet in the
shop. It retails for less than $30 and it's quite good.
The new vintage of his Sauvignon Blanc is a winner, too.
Luftig says he doesn't want a fruit bomb and he's not fond of extreme
Sauvignons displaying a bowl of grapefruit or the other end of the
spectrum with a basket of bell peppers.
We like those sorts of expressive wines, though and yet we find the Pied-à-Terre
Sauvignon to be quite charming.
It's almost as though the wine combines elements of Sancerre from France,
Sauvignon from New Zealand and then the character of (good) Sauvignon
Blanc from California.
The grapes come primarily from Sonoma's Bennett Valley. The juice is
fermented in oak and yet the wood is not really noticeable. They use
mostly older cooperage, though a tiny fraction of the barrels are brand
new. Luftig says he likes the texture from this fermentation and
The resulting wine is nicely aromatic and easily identifiable as Sauvignon
Blanc. The wine is crisp and zesty on the palate, making it a good
match with white fish, sushi or seafood salads.
Currently in stock: PIED à TERRE 2017 Sonoma SAUVIGNON BLANC
- THE OJAI VINEYARD
2020 Santa Barbara County Sauvignon Blanc
- Adam Tolmach is
one of the leading winemakers in the Santa Barbara County area. Never
mind that his winery is actually located in neighboring Ventura County.
Adam has made Sauvignon Blanc for many years. More than a decade and a
the wine had a substantial percentage of Semillon and oak, his wines
emulating some top white Bordeaux way back when.
I'd say recent vintages have been
more along the lines of Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé wines.
- While enrolled at UC Davis Adam would periodically drive to Berkeley to
check out the selections at Kermit Lynch's little French wine
emporium. He tended to explore the reds from the Northern Rhône and
whites from the Loire and this, Tolmach says, left an indelible impression
on his winemaking. When he planted his first vines at Ojai he chose
Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc.
Since 1998 he's been sourcing Sauvignon Blanc from what is now called the
McGinley Vineyard. Back in the old days it was called the Westerly
Vineyard, but some vineyard land was sold (to McGinley) and Westerly makes
wines under its own label.
Despite being, at one point, named Westerly, the vineyard is actually in a
place called Happy Canyon and it's in the easternmost part of Santa
Barbara's wine region. After buying grapes "by the ton,"
Tolmach buys the fruit "by the acre" and directs the
viticultural practices. The production per acre is rather small, but it does allow the
grape to shine and bring along with it some "terroir."
They've improved their general viticulture and now farm
"organically," as we understand the current state of affairs.
Along the way he's changed how the vines are trained and they moved from
what is called "cane pruning" to "cordon. The idea is
to have a smaller crop which should yield more intensely-flavored
fruit. At one point Adam bought some grapes from adjacent vineyards
which were conventionally-farmed just to test his theory. Wine from
those more prolifically-cropped vines was acceptable, he says, but the
wine from the shy-bearing vineyards produced wine of higher quality (and
it seems to have a longer life span).
The 2020 vintage is the current, recent release and, as usual, it's a good
bottle of wine. Maybe a tad young, yet, even. The wine is
fermented in seasoned oak cooperage and we don't find any impact from the
This is a medium-bodied Sauvignon Blanc...not styled along the lines of a
white Bordeaux and not like the hugely aromatic New Zealand wines.
It's a little bit quiet presently.
Winemaker Adam Tolmach
Rich produces some delightfully soulful wines at the Winemaker's Studio in
Oregon's Willamette Valley.
We're fans of his Pinot Noirs the past few vintages and his Sauvignon
Blanc has been exceptional and, we feel, the reference point for the
variety in Oregon.
Currently in stock: ANDREW RICH 2020 Willamette
Valley SAUVIGNON BLANC $19.99
CADE ESTATE WINERY
is a project owned by California Governor Gavin Newsom and his buddies
Gordon Getty and John Conover.
The winery is located on Howell Mountain, east of St. Helena and it's a
They 2019 vintage of Napa Sauvignon Blanc comes from five vineyard
sites. Two are estate-owned vineyards, one in Oakville and the other
near the winery on Howell Mountain. Add to this grapes from Oak
Knoll, St. Helena and Pope Valley. To create a wine of complexity
they've used stainless steel, new oak, seasoned cooperage and some
concrete eggs for the fermentation.
It's damned near entirely Sauvignon Blanc except for one percent Semillon.
Some vintages have had a drop of Viognier, but we're told this 2019 does
After the fermentation the wine remains on the spent yeast for about five
months, but they don't disturb the wine by stirring it.
The resulting wine focuses on citrusy notes with lemon and lime
dominating. There's a touch of a melon-like quality, too.
It's dry and crisp and that little bit of wood doesn't show up on the nose
and palate as being "woody."
- Currently in stock: CADE 2019 Napa SAUVIGNON BLANC $33.99
California vintners pick their grapes at 21 or 22 degrees Brix (a measure
of sugar). For most, that's way too low, yielding a wine of merely
12 or 12.5% alcohol. Everyone wants to make powerful wines...wines
viewed as "important."
Winemaker Ernie Weir is an old-timer and he hasn't changed his style of
winemaking to meet today's fashion for extreme wines, sweet wines or
high-octane bottlings. His Sauvignon Blanc is typically below 14%
alcohol. The 2018 is listed as a mere 12.5%.
Another feature of the Hagafen winery is that the wines are
Kosher. This used to be THE major selling point for this brand many years
ago. But nobody makes a fuss over Colgate toothpaste or Comet cleanser
being Kosher and today the sales pitch for Hagafen is more about the quality of
the wine. That they are Kosher is only incidental.
On the other hand, making Kosher wines has its challenges: a couple of
important Jewish holidays tend to fall during the grape harvest, so Weir has to
plan ahead for details such as picking and cellar work.
Currently in stock: HAGAFEN 2018 Napa/Sonoma SAUVIGNON
BLANC SALE $19.99
- Winemaker Charlie Gilmore has taken flight numerous times, much like the
bird his winery is named after. He worked harvests at Artesa,
Cakebread, Rosenblum and Gundlach-Bundschu before heading off to
Australia's Barossa Valley for the 2004 vintage Down Under. For more
than a decade he was a winemaker for Fetzer and Jekel where he got a dose
of environmentally-conscious viticulture and winemaking.
He launched his Cormorant brand with the 2018 vintage, making wine from an
organically-farmed vineyard in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley, one of the best
places for the Sauvignon Blanc grape in our view.
The Martorana Family, who grew the grapes, allowed Mr. Gilmore to make the
wine in their little cellar and he did so with great care as he was
seeking to make something that might be dubbed "natural."
We are a bit unsure about wines marketed as such, having found that
terminology is often employed as an excuse for odd and unusual wine.
But Gilmore's idea of natural was simply to crush the organically-farmed
Martorana Sauvignon Blanc, transfer the juice to a few stainless steel
drums and one, lone French oak barrel and let nature take its
course. Between the indigenous yeasts on the grape skins and that of
the cellar he was able to ferment the wine to just under 13%
alcohol. It's preserved by a high level of acidity and low
pH. He stirred the yeast sediment a number of times to keep
the wine a bit hazy (some enologists will tell you this can allow for less
sulphur to be used until bottling) in an effort to enhance the texture of
When that moment-of-truth came, bottling, he did add a small amount of SO2
to keep the wine in good condition over the course of its life in the
We noticed the wine is not brilliantly clear in terms of its appearance as
he didn't filter the wine in an effort to retain greater aromatics and
The wine, as noted, is crisp and tangy in terms of acidity. It's the
sort of wine that can easily pair with sautéed or pan-fried seafood or
warm weather seafood salads.
Currently in stock: 2018 CORMORANT
Dry Creek Valley SAUVIGNON BLANC $23.99
- This winery became an overnight success back in the
mid-1980s on the strength of good wines and favorable reviews from some important critics.
This winery is the leading name in New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, though many New Zealanders
are curious as to why the wine is SO popular these days, since they often feel others do as
fine a job with the grape.
Well, when you're identified as the "best" (and the
first), people tend to want to buy your wine. Imported to the U.S. market by the Clicquot
Champagne folks, this wine has been sold, for the most part, to those establishments which
manage to move a lot of Clicquot Champagne.
They've ramped up production over the past decade and supply issues are
possibly a thing of the past.
We like the Cloudy Bay wines and enjoy, from
time to time, their Sauvignon Blanc. Some describe it as having the
"gooseberry," citrus and lychee fragrances and flavors which are typical of New
- The 2020 vintage was harvested over several weeks under
good climatic conditions. One of the biggest challenges, though, was
the Covid Pandemic and having people working in the vineyards and cellar.
It had been a dry growing season and the vineyard crew did not have much in
the way of weather challenges.
Most of the juice was fermented in stainless steel tanks, though they do
give a tiny percentage of the production fermentation in seasoned (neutral)
wood barrels. They use some cultured yeasts to encourage a certain
aromatic character and some indigenous yeasts to bring additional complexity
to the wine.
It's the usual showy Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc.
you want the "unusual Cloudy Bay" Sauvignon, splurge and purchase
a bottle of the 2014 Te Koko bottling.
This comes from older vineyards and the 2014 vintage was harvested in less
than a week. The juice is fermented with indigenous yeasts (at the
outset anyway, but they don't tell us if they add some cultured yeasts to
ensure the fermentation is complete) and it's vinified in barrel with just
8% of the wooden being brand new.
There's a bit of malolactic fermentation yet the acidity is still rather
high, giving the wine a terrific, crisp finish.
Currently available: 2020 Sauvignon Blanc SALE $31.99
2014 TE KOKO Sauvignon Blanc Sale Sold Out
lovely winery was founded by a couple of fellows who "graduated"
from the University of Cloudy Bay in New Zealand's Marlborough country.
Winemaker James Healy and viticulture guru Ivan Sutherland (and their
wives) launched this brand in the early 2000s. They have
about 80 hectares of grapes and produce four wines: Two Sauvignon
Blancs, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir.
We have found recent vintages to be exceptional, particularly their
upper-tier wine called Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc.
Vineyards are farmed organically and they started down this
environmentally-conscious path in 2009. They have some sort of
certification, as well. The company brings in more than
2000 sheep and a couple of dozen steers to "weed" their way
through the vineyards in the winter.
Dog Point's vineyards are pruned to produce modest quantities as they
don't go for maximum yields. We know, for example, many Napa
wineries make rather empty wines knowing the Napa appellation on the label
gets them $20-$50 for Sauvignon Blanc even when the vineyards are severely
over-cropped and the wines are rather anonymous in the glass.
Hand harvested fruit is part of the Dog Point protocol. No machine
We have found the Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc to be quite striking and of
The fruit comes from a vineyard that was planted in 1992. The grapes
are whole-cluster pressed and the juice goes into older French oak
cooperage for its fermentation and aging. It spends about 18 months
in wood and develops an exceptionally smoky, toasty, leesy quality which
reminds us, to some extent, of the splendid Puligny Montrachets of Domaine
Leflaive from Burgundy. (Of course, yes, those are not made of
Sauvignon Blanc...but if you like the style of Leflaive, you'll probably
appreciate this Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc.)
Dog Point wines are not subjected to a fining treatment to clarify them
and they employ but a light filtration.
We have the 2014 in stock presently. It's bone dry and lip-smacking
crisp and tart.
We recently met one of the offspring of the Dog Point founders and told
her we routinely require any customer bringing this wine to the check-out
counter to show their identification card to prove they're an adult.
She laughed, but the notion is this is not a wine for "kids" or
people who drink a lot of the industrial plonk being made at the direction
of a marketing department expert. It's not "dumbed down"
for the average bear.
It's really magnificent...serious Sauvignon Blanc for someone who's
looking for a wine for contemplation and for pairing with serious cuisine.
- If that sounds like you, please stop by and snag a bottle.
Currently in stock: DOG POINT 2014 Marlborough
"Section 94" SAUVIGNON BLANC Sold Out
winemaking couple produces this serious blend of Sauvignon Blanc and
The He here is Jeff Pisoni, son of Gary Pisoni, a major celebrity and
crazy man from Monterey's Santa Lucia Highlands.
The She here is Bibiana González Rave who hails from Colombia. Mrs.
Pisoni spent time in France and has a degree ffrom the University of
Bordeaux in addition to working at Château La Mission Haut-Brion and Château
Since everything sounds more romantic in French, one bottling is called
Leçons des maîtres which means Lessons of the Masters.
The couple make but a few barrels of this lovely, pricey blend from three
vineyards in Sonoma's Russian River Valley. The Sauvignon comes from
the Kirk Ranch and Beltane Ranch vineyards (we think) while the Semillon, which accounts for
24% of the
blend in the 2018 vintage, comes from the Marino vineyard. The juice
was barrel fermented and the wine spent about 8 months on the spent yeast.
It's a nicely intense dry white. We like the peach and melon notes.
We might consider this to be their tip-of-the-cap to Bordeaux.
The price is a bit ambitious, but we do get requests for some deluxe
California Sauvignon Blanc and this is special. We even splurged to
put this on our own dinner table when hosting friends from out of the
country for a special meal. Damned good!
second, tiny production bottling is called Les
Pierres qui décident.
(The rocks that decide.)
2017 "Les Pierres" is outstanding and it reminded us of Pouilly-Fumé
wines made by the late Didier Dagueneau back in the early 2000s.
It comes from two vineyard sites, one in the Russian River Valley and the other
a bit north and east of Santa Rosa.
The wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc and it's entirely of the Musqué clone.
Both vineyards were harvested during the last week of August in an effort to
capture bright fruit and crisp acidity.
They tell us the wine was aged in French oak, but the wood is well integrated
into the wine and we are not especially sensitive to the oak here. The
secret is they use puncheons rather than smaller barriques for this
bottling. That means less surface area of the wine to oak.
It's a remarkable bottle and one of California's most striking
We suspect vignerons in the Loire Valley would be proud to have their label on
Currently in stock: SHARED NOTES 2018 Russian
River Valley "Les Leçons des Maîtres" $64.99
SHARED NOTES 2017 Sonoma "Les Pierres qui Décident" Sold Out
NAUTILUS ESTATE OF MARLBOROUGH
is one of the older wineries in New Zealand's Marlborough country.
The place was founded in 1985 and it's a family-owned
They make a range of wines, but we know them as a good source of Sauvignon
It's got the classic citrusy notes of New Zealand Sauvignons but it's not
The 2018 is in stock presently. Quite dry and very crisp. It's
fermented in stainless steel tanks for the most part. We aren't
sensitive to the three-percent barrel-fermented juice.
The alcohol is relatively low...a mere 12.5%.
It's a terrific cocktail white and you can easily pair it with sushi or
Currently in stock: 2018 NAUTILUS ESTATE Marlborough SAUVIGNON
BLANC Sale $17.99
ROBERT MONDAVI WINERY
Mondavi is to be credited with Sauvignon Blanc being as popular as it is in the U.S.
market. He made Sauvignon in 1966 as a dry wine. In 1967 he made a sweet
wine. He came up with the name "Fumé Blanc" and his wine was instantly
popular, a finer alternative to the white wines of those days: Grey Riesling, Chenin
Blanc, Green Hungarian and California "Chablis."
Over the years they've
continued to make good "Fumé Blanc," adding a "Reserve" bottling and
a regional bottling to their line-up. Most stunning is a Fumé Blanc from an old
vineyard called "To Kalon," which has been planted since 1868 and was planted by
Henry Crabb. Mondavi claims it is the oldest Sauvignon Blanc vineyard in
California. They made a special bottling called "I-Block" amounting to but
a few hundred cases. Much in the style of a top white Bordeaux, this is excellent,
but expensive. It's a far cry from the watery wine they make out in Lodi's
Mondavi raised the price from an ambitious $50 to $75 and we lost interest
in the wine...I noticed the distributor no longer even offers this special
bottling, so I suppose the Mondavi folks are drinking it all themselves.
It's something like $90 a bottle we understand.
- Currently in stock: 2002 Mondavi "To Kalon - I Block"
2010 Austrian SAUVIGNON BLANC "Zieregg" $54.99
am certain that few people walking through our doors has even the slightest
clue that some of the world's best Sauvignon Blanc wines are made in
Austria's Steiermark region.
An Italian friend who lives in the Alto Adige (they call it the Sudtirol)
told me he organizes a blind-tasting of Sauvignons every year and Tement's
wine usually wins.
Tement makes great Sauvignons. He now has half a dozen different
bottlings! The range is impressive. And Tement makes a whole
host of other wines, as well, but Sauvignon Blanc seems to be the big
ambassador for the winery in the international market.
The special bottling is called Zieregg and it's a bit of a splurge for most
people. On the other hand, wines of similar quality from producers
such as Dagueneau or Smith-Haut-Lafitte have now become much more expensive
than Tement's fabulous wine.
Tement uses neutral wood to mature this wine and the casks are large,
too. They give it a year and a half in the cellar, but say it doesn't
really blossom until somewhere between two and four years. But don't
be in a rush to drink this. Tement says you can hold this for 15
years, as the wine, thanks to its bracing acidity, ages gracefully.
This is one of those "connoisseur wines" that most people don't
know about (here in the US market, anyway). It's remarkable and worth
- The Neumeister family has about 50 acres of vineyards in Austria's
Steiermark region. Located in the town of Straden, the, this is very
close to Slovenia and Hungary.
Soil types here tend toward volcanic and basalt. The rather cool
climate produces marvelous Sauvignon Blanc wines and we're fond of the
Their "Klassik" Sauvignon Blanc is a delight.
We currently have the 2003 vintage in stock and it's a
remarkably fresh, citrusy and dry wine. The grape dominates as oak is not
a feature of this wine. This is a good match for all sorts of seafood, but
it can be partnered with well-seasoned, spicy foods, too.
Currently in stock: 2003 Neumeister Steierische
Klassik Sauvignon Sold Out
The Neumeister family has a modern tasting room, so if you find yourself in
their neighborhood, do stop by.
They own a small "inn" called Schlafgut Saziani
which is most comfortable. It's reasonably-priced, too.
Their restaurant was closed when we visited, but it's apparently a
well-regarded, somewhat fancy place which is frequently written up in the
various gourmet guides.
Here's the website: http://www.neumeister.cc/en_index.asp