With at least 3 distinct styles of Sauvignon Blanc coming out of California it’s sometimes tough to figure out what you’re buying. There are many producers emulating the wildly successful, full throttle style popularized by most of New Zealand’s producers. Unfortunately not many regions in California are particularly well suited to this ripe, yet vibrantly green style.
California has been most successful with the rich, round style popular in Bordeaux that relies on a combination of barrel aging and additions of other grape varieties to complete the wine. Many producers have embraced the beauty of their rich, fruity wines and have chosen to age the wines in stainless steel and bottle them without any additional grapes, thus preserving the unique notes that their Sauvignon Blanc produces.
Getting to know the traits of the various regions in California can help you decipher the riddle that is California Sauvignon Blanc. Each region has its own special attributes that may translate into a distinct style. Winemakers may try to impose their will on the wines but Sauvignon Blanc is an assertive grape, whose distinctive traits are difficult to obscure.
Napa ValleyNapa Valley's rather warm climate produces rich, soft wines that benefit from the added depth a bit of oak ageing contributes to the final wine. With so many estates here based on the Bordeaux model, it's no surprise that traditional old world techniques are favored.
Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2008
Packed with fresh pineapple, passion fruit, and lime flavors backed with hints of cactus, almond and a whisper of vanilla in a rich, linear style that is exceptionally well balanced and compellingly complex
Sonoma ValleyWith its southern edge wide open to the San Pablo bay, Sonoma Valley’s rolling hills offer a moderate climate that allows Sauvignon Blanc to get fully ripe, losing some of it’s aggressive herbal character, yet retaining juicy acidity and crisp fruit flavors.
Kunde Estate Sauvignon Blanc Magnolia Lane 2008
Full of grapefruit and orange toned fruit with a touch of mineral cut and a sweet, floral inner mouth perfume, this is richly fruited yet the acids give this an inner strength that keeps this lively with everything well balanced.
Dry Creek ValleyIn the North of Sonoma County lies the Dry Creek Valley, home of some of California’s finest Sauvignon Blanc. The combination of moderate temperatures and gravelly, sandy soils produces brilliant wines with classic hints of gooseberry.
Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2008
The exuberant nose gives up notes of gooseberry, lemon, pineapple and herbs that follow through on the palate. A nice mineral and acid driven snap leads to a finale of mouthwatering sea salt and lime tones.
If you are interested in reading more about California Sauvignon Blanc please find my complete article here.
Gregory Dal Piaz