The World of Sauvignon Blanc
- Some people view Sauvignon Blanc as "poor man's
It's not Chardonnay, doesn't taste like Chardonnay and doesn't always match the same
foods as Chardonnay!
California's Sauvignon Blanc history doesn't go back very far.
In the late
1960s Robert Mondavi played around with this grape. He made a dry wine...didn't
sell. He made a dessert wine....didn't sell. Then he took a cue from the
Europeans and knowing there are Loire Valley Sauvignon Blancs called "Sancerre"
and "Pouilly-Fumé", he coined the name "Fumé Blanc".
sexy name for Sauvignon Blanc and now the wine was selling like crazy! He
didn't trademark or copyright the name and so this term is one of Mr. Mondavi's gifts to
the wine business.
- When the Fetzer winery was still a small business and
family owned, they ran a little marketing test in their Mendocino tasting room. They offered visitors
two identical wines. One was in a Bordeaux bottle, the other in a Burgundy bottle.
One was labeled Sauvignon Blanc, the other Fumé Blanc. Despite the fact the
wine in the glasses was identical, an overwhelming number of people had a definite
preference for "Fumé Blanc". Today Fetzer sells tons of "Valley Oaks
The style of wine is dependent upon the winemaker and the vineyard. Some are
made without oak, others clubbed to death with wood. Some are fermented in barrel,
others in stainless steel. Some are cultivated in cool regions, making crisp, light
wines; others are grown in warm regions and are big and rich. You can find grassy
notes in some Sauvignons, while others have vegetal notes and others display grapefruit,
citrus and sometimes even a tropical fruit note.
- In France's Loire Valley the wines of Sancerre and
Pouilly-Fumé are 100% Sauvignon Blanc. In France's Bordeaux, often the predominant
grape has been Semillon, with a modest amount of Sauvignon Blanc.
These days it seems this has changed and now many wines are predominantly
Sauvignon. Many 'serious' are
usually fermented in wood and the oak typically plays an important part in the wine. The
wines of Bordeaux's Entre-Deux-Mers, though, tend to see little or no wood.
has a broad spectrum of Sauvignons. The rest of world is now making good wine from this
grape, too. New Zealand has emerged as a prime area for this variety and we've
tasted superb wines from Italy, South Africa, Austria, Spain, Australia and South America.
Best Sauvignon Blanc Buys
POMELO 2010 SAUVIGNON BLANC $9.99
offers this wine, made from Lake County fruit, at a most reasonable price.
His Mason label features a good $15 Napa Sauvignon and he's added a
whiz-bang bottling for $35. We've found the Pomelo label to be just
about the best value in a ten-buck California Sauvignon.
A Pomelo is some sort of citrus fruit that's native to Malaysia.
You'll encounter citrusy notes on the nose and palate of this light (that
means under 14% alcohol, a rarity in California!) wine. It's a good
cocktail wine and pairs well with seafood.
There's a case discount, too, making this even more enticing.
understand this is made by one of our favorite New Zealand vintners.
It's a label intended to be high quality/sensibly-priced with little or no
fanfare in promotion, advertising, etc.
Their 2011 Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp, fruity, typically-New-Zealand,
citrusy dry white. And it's got a modest price tag.
Currently in stock: 2011 FIRE ROAD New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Premium Sauvignon Blancs
BAILLY 2010 SANCERRE (List $24) SALE $19.99
- This little producer in the Loire makes some delicious,
crisp, tangy Sauvignon Blancs...classically Loire Valley .
Jacques Bailly runs the show now that his father, Sylvain, is
retired. The Sancerre features the citrusy, minerally notes we love in
Loire Valley Sauvignons. A number of Sancerres arrive in the market
for ridiculously high prices.
Bailly's is fairly priced and top
It's best with seafood...shellfish is an ideal accompaniment. Quite
good with Asian-styled seafood, too.
Monsieur & Madame Jacques Bailly.
DUCKHORN VINEYARDS 2009 Napa Valley SAUVIGNON BLANC $26.99
We have a few magnums ... maybe a
few half bottles, too.
Duckhorns decided they needed to have some sort of white wine to drink, given the summer heat in the
Napa Valley. With a number of vintages of Merlot under their belts, they decided to
produce Sauvignon Blanc as their cool, refreshing white.
The first vintage was 1982
and the wine has changed some over the years. They veered off course from making
bone dry Sauvignon with the addition of some Viognier, totally changing the wine from a
Bordeaux-styled white to something completely different. Happily the original recipe
is being employed (or close to original). The model for Duckhorn
has been the white wines of Bordeaux, rather than the Sauvignons of the
A bit of barrel-fermentation and some
maturation period on the spent yeast (called the "lees") contributes a toasty
element to the wine. Duckhorn uses a substantial amount of Sémillon,
too: 25% in the 2009 vintage. The wine displays a bit of richness and
ripe fruits such as mango and papaya, with a touch of lemon and orange. Rather nice alongside seafood prepared with a citrus element.
- FERRARI CARANO 2010 Sonoma "FUMÉ
BLANC" list $18 SALE $13.99
- Located in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley, this is an excellent place to cultivate
Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is a blend of Sauvignons from other locations within
Sonoma and it's a light, dry, mildly herbal white wine.
I find it a
bit fruity and not particularly acidic. Thirty-five percent of the juice is
fermented in oak, but wood is not a major component in this melony white
FROG'S LEAP 2010 Napa Valley/Rutherford SAUVIGNON BLANC SALE
"Time's fun when you're having flies" is the winery motto. It's
also fun when you're drinking their wines.
John Williams' 2010, mostly from Rutherford-grown fruit, is mildly citrusy
with an underlying grassy or herbal tone. The past few vintages from
Frog's Leap have been really good and they're one of the few wineries in
California to make Sauvignon Blanc with modest levels of alcohol (always
I asked John about some of the neighbor's wines and why he thought the wines
needed to be so potent.
He didn't point any fingers at his colleagues, but did explain that many
Sauvignon vineyards are over-cropped. "I think they're trying to
coax a bit of character out of the fruit by picking so late." he told
- SIERRA VISTA
- 2010 Sierra Foothills Fume Blanc SALE
These days we rarely think of the Sierra Foothills as a
source for Sauvignon Blanc. Yet John and Barbara MacCready at
Placerville's Sierra Vista Winery produce a really nice example, one that
seems to show not only good varietal character, but a bit of terroir, too.
Sauvignon Blanc in the Sierra Foothills has largely disappeared as
vintners seek to cater to passing fancies or perceived market
demands. As a result, you'll find a lot of curious wines made of
Rhone varieties, for example, or over-ripe, under-nourished red wines.
John is definitely an old-timer, starting the winery in the early
1970s. He's still young, though, being close to 80 years of age and
still actively working in the vineyards and cellar! Bravo!!!
No oak for the "Fume" Blanc, as John prefers to highlight the
grape rather than the barrel. The 2010 is dry, nicely crisp and it
shows a bit of lemongrass, grapefruit and a touch of a melon note.
- HONIG 2009 Napa Valley (Rutherford) SAUVIGNON BLANC
HONIG 2010 Napa SAUVIGNON BLANC $12.99
This family-run winery offers two bottlings of Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa
Valley. Theirs are some of the few really bone dry California Sauvignons still being
made, as many winemakers cater to the sweet tooth-palates which critique and write about
wine. They both are good wines, the "reserve" bottling having more oak,
yet still displaying intense Sauvignon fruit aromas and flavors. It's
really nicely done, with lots of vanillin and smoky notes. It is now
labeled simply as "Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc."
The 2010 "regular" bottling is quite good and typical of Honig's
recent efforts. They do some skin contact, we noticed when we visited
during the harvest season...this contributes a bit of character to the wine
according to winemaker Kristen Belair.
It's a fragrant dry white, having notes reminiscent of Loire Valley
Sauvignons and some elements we like in New Zealand wines. About half
the juice comes from Honig's own vineyards. Very fine and
Preston grew up in our neighborhood and he has been in Sonoma's Dry Creek
Valley since the 1970s.
I remember showing some senior citizen a bottle of Preston wine back in the
late 1970s and explained this was the work of a fellow named Lou Preston.
"Little Louie Preston!?!" she shrieked. "He grew up in
my neighborhood and now he's a winemaker?"
Little Louie was one of our favorite producers of Zinfandel and Sauvignon
Blanc back in those early days. And every once-in-a-while we find a
nice wine from the Prestons.
We currently have a rather nice 2010 Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc. The
wine represents a beautiful rendition of "Dry Creek" terroir, for
one thing and it retains a nice quality which bespeaks of Sauvignon
The viticulture has been of "organic" farming for quite some time
now. And Lou's enologist has been letting the ambient yeasts do their
thing, which they credit for helping highlight the character of their
particular Dry Creek-ocity.
The wine has some nice grassy sorts of notes with a melon and grapefruit
quality. There's a touch of minerality lurking in there as well.
It's a nice throw-back to the days before winemakers went nuts with letting
the grapes get over-ripe. As a result, there's a nice tangy acidity
here and the wine is below 14% alcohol.
If you're having a vegetable-sauced pasta or risotto, this will work
nicely. It's also pretty tasty with shellfish, so crab, calamari and
prawns all fit nicely here.
- Currently in stock: 2010 PRESTON Dry Creek Valley SAUVIGNON
BLANC Please stop by for special pricing...
suppose this sure is an odd name for a brand of wine: Banshee.
A Banshee, if you're not up on your Irish folklore, is some sort of female
spirit or fairy, who cries out a loud wailing noise to warn of the
impending death of someone. Lucky for Bob his hearing aids don't
work all the time and I'm a bit impaired thanks to my exposure to rock
& roll in the 1960s and 1970s, along with my slightly advanced
age. Ellen sometimes asks "What did you say?" as her ears
aren't as young as they once were.
Be that as it may, we all recognized a screamin' deal when we tasted this
curious bottle of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.
The brand is a label of some fellows who have varied backgrounds in the
wine business...retail, restaurant, wholesale, import...and now they've
launched their own brand, combining actually making wine along with
siphoning off bulk wine from established wineries.
We've tasted a few of their offerings and this Sauvignon Blanc caught out
attention. It reminds us a bit of the Sauvignons made by Richard
Sanford in Santa Barbara 15 or 20 years ago. These were really
intensely "Sauvignon," showing grassy, herbal notes with a decidedly
You'll probably agree that this is not for the faint-hearted and it's got
a jalapeno pepper character which makes it a great match for well-seasoned
seafood, chicken or pork dishes.
The wine is also well-priced.
Currently in stock: 2010 BANSHEE Napa SAUVIGNON
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