If Sauvignon Blanc has become your thirst quenching, go-to daytime patio quaffing wine — maybe even the foundation for Saturday afternoon’s sangria — we don’t blame you. There is plenty of fresh, young, affordable SB out there perfectly suited for summertime sipping. But, in keeping with the Bordeaux tradition, there is increasingly a focus on making serious, high-quality Sauvignon Blanc in California. By lowering yields and carefully managing the vigor of the canopy, growers can intensify the flavor, aromas and varietal character of the grape — giving the winemaker more to work with. This slew of just-released Sauvignon Blancs are certainly fine paired with a sunny day, but offer considerable depth and complexity — a very valid alternative to Chardonnay.
2011 Captûre Les Pionniers Sauvignon Blanc
Harvested from hillside plantings in Sonoma, this wine is aged for five months in stainless steel, during which time the lees, or dead yeast cells, are stirred every week. What does that mean for the wine? All those wonderful fresh herb-garden and citrus aromas are preserved while the palate is creamy and layered. Denis Malbec, the former cellar master at Chateau Laour, is the first to admit that it is Sauvignon Blanc, not Chardonnay, that he knows how to make best.
2011 VML Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Virginia Marie Lambrix, as her label suggests, is something of a sorceress. She coaxes aromas and flavors from grapes that you didn’t know existed. For her Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc, she tames the explosive and at times tropical character of the naturally aromatic varietal in favor of subtlety and structure. Rather than giving it all up immediately, this wine lures you in — you find yourself going back to the glass again and again, each time discovering something different.
2010 Lail Blueprint Sauvignon Blanc
When Philippe Melka told Robin Lail that he planned to ferment her precious Sauvignon Blanc grapes in oak barrels, she said no way. But, calling on his Bordeaux heritage and a bit of French charm perhaps, she eventually agreed. And you can’t argue with the result. The first brush with oak on the nose is alarming, indeed, but rather than overwhelming the fruit, it complements it profoundly. Flavors range from stone fruit to tropical and the clean, dry finish is the very essence of minerality.
2010 Kristine Ashe Entre Nous Sauvignon Blanc
Grown riverside and fermented in porous, egg-shaped cement fermentation vessels, this wine is reminiscent of a briskly flowing spring surrounded by citrus groves. The great natural acidity makes it sing, but a year of barrel age guarantees this wine knows more than just one note.