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More Sauvignon Blancs !

 

THE OJAI VINEYARD
2010 Santa Barbara County  Sauvignon Blanc $24.99
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 ago the wine had a substantial percentage of Semillon and oak, his wines emulating some top white Bordeaux.  I'd say recent vintages have been more along the lines of Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé wines.

The grapes come from what was known as the Westerly vineyard, which is not in the western part of the Santa Ynez Valley but in the eastern portion of that appellation.  These days it's called The McGinley Vineyard.  Adam gets them to farm it the way he prefers, viewing the wine more as an artistic endeavor rather than as a hugely commercial one.  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.

The 2010 vintage is the current, recent release and, much like last year's wine, this is superb.  It's quite dry and has more of an herbal streak than citrus.  You can't mistake this for anything but Sauvignon Blanc.  That said, it's not a wine for the average wine drinker...it may actually put off some tasters since the character of the Sauvignon is rather intense.

 


SELENE
The Selene label is that of winemaker Mia Klein.  She's worn a lot of winemaking hats, being affiliated with wineries such as Etude, Dalla Valle, Chappellet, Robert Pepi Fisher Vineyards, Araujo, Spottswoode Viader and Bressler Vineyards.  Mia has an active business as a "winemaking consultant," you see, in addition to producing her own wine under the Selene banner.

Her Sauvignon Blanc comes from the famous Hyde Vineyards in Carneros.  This vineyard features a special clone of Sauvignon called Musqué.  It's said to be less vegetative in fragrance and flavor and more fruity: think tangy nectarine and grapefruit.  

She's been making this for 20 vintages and has recently employed an interesting technique for the fermentation.  Mia starts the fermentation with a particular yeast culture and introduces another culture part way through to finish.  She calls this "sequential fermentation" and it's an effort to make the wine even more complex.  
Ms. Klein gives the wine a bit of wood, but it's not the predominant character of the wine.   Some of the juice goes into oak and some into stainless steel.  All remains on the lees for several months to give the wine more richness and dimension.  

Selene Sauvignon is fairly full and intense, so pairing it with well-seasoned white meats or seafood is ideal.  The 2011 is superb...I've shared bottles of previous vintages with visiting winemakers from Europe who have been "wowed" by this wine.

Currently in stock: 2011 Selene Sauvignon Blanc (List $32)  SALE  $28.99
 
 

 

TRES SABORES

This brand started out with Julie Johnson having three winemakers produce Zinfandel and so there were three "Sabores" or flavors, each winemaker producing a decidedly different wine.

We recently tasted a delightful Sonoma Mountain Sauvignon Blanc of Julie's, a wine that captures a gorgeously citrusy character and a faint stoniness.  They fermented half the juice in stainless steel and did the other half in  seasoned (they call them "previously inspired") French oak.   Then it was matured for 8 months on the yeast sediment to add additional body and complexity.

Nicely done!

Julie, by the way, was a founding partner with John Williams and Larry Turley in a little venture called Frog's Leap.  That was, however, in a previous lifetime.


Currently in stock:  TRES SABORES 2010 Sauvignon Blanc $17.99

 

HAGAFEN

Few 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.

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 2010 Napa SAUVIGNON BLANC  SALE $16.99

 




CLOUDY BAY

cloudy_bay.gif (8876 bytes)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, 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 is sold, for the most part, to those establishments which manage to move a lot of Clicquot Champagne. 

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 Zealand's Sauvignons.


Currently available: 2013 Sauvignon Blanc  SALE $27.99

MULDERBOSCH
This is a highly-acclaimed Sauvignon Blanc estate in South Africa.

Their wine is somewhat akin to New Zealand Sauvignons, though there's a stony element which may remind you of Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume.

The wine is modest in terms of alcohol and oak is not a feature here.

Currently in stock:  2009 MULDERBOSCH Sauvignon Blanc $19.99

 

 
 
 

ROBERT MONDAVI WINERY
r_mondavi.gif (1060 bytes)Mr. 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 "Woodbridge" area!

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.
Currently in stock:   2002 Mondavi "To Kalon - I Block" Fumé Blanc Sold Out


 
TEMENT 
2010 Austrian SAUVIGNON BLANC "Zieregg"  $54.99
I 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.

Not surprised.

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 trying.

 
 

NEUMEISTER
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 Neumeister's efforts.

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

 

CLOS HENRI  2008 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Sold Out

There has been quite a flood of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wines arriving in our market.  It's no secret that many of the wines produced there are excellent expressions of the grape.

A real validation for the Marlborough region was the arrival of the Bourgeois family from France's Loire Valley.  Their arrival was rather like the Baron Rothschild's or Christian Moueix' interest in owning a piece of the Napa Valley far from their Bordeaux homes.  

Bourgeois is the leading ambassador for the Sauvignons from various top Loire appellations, especially that of Sancerre.  


The land purchased by the Bourgeois family was virgin vineyard territory, featuring three soil types.  They're planting several hectares annually and expect this to be a 12 year project before reaching the finish line.  They expect to plant about 65 hectares of the 100 hectare estate.

We find the Clos Henri wine to combine elements of top Loire Valley Sauvignons with top New Zealand wines.  Having notes of each makes for an unusually complex bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, no matter the wine's birthplace.   We like the minerality of this wine, as well as the spicy pineapple and citrus tones.  It's got more 'weight' than your average New Zealand Sauvignon, yet it's not as potent as most California Sauvignons.  

We're big fans and delighted to have some bottles to share with our customers.   Don't miss this.  I included the 2006 in a blind-tasting with 7 Loire Valley Sauvignons.  I ranked this in my top 3 and did not find it 'stood out' as something particularly different as would most New Zealand wines.

The 2008 is a good representation for the Clos Henri brand.  It's bridges the gap between the superficial, fruity New Zealand Sauvignons and the more subtle, minerally wines from Sancerre.  Think of it as a New Zealand Sauvignon with a French accent.

ROCHIOLI

The Rochioli story goes back to the late 1930s when they purchased some land in Sonoma's Russian River Valley.  For years they sold grapes to local wineries.  When it became fashionable to produce "single vineyard" wines with the grower identified on the label, the Rochioli name became well known for Pinot Noir.  

Like many growers, they saw the prices for wines made from their own fruit and decided they ought to use those grapes for their own brand.  And so, the Rochioli Winery was born in the 1980s.  Teaming up with a national marketing group, prices have escalated to the point where we no longer ask "What does this cost?," but "how much is the ransom?"

Sauvignon Blanc from this producer, though, is quite good.  It displays herbal and citrusy notes which makes it a good partner for seafood...especially dishes seasoned with lemon grass, cilantro, basil or mint.

Currently in stock:  2010 ROCHIOLI Sauvignon Blanc $39.99



ATA RANGI

Ata Rangi is a famous name for New Zealand wines and their Pinot Noirs have a phenomenal track record.

The vineyards and cellar we begun in the early 1980s and today they produce roughly 15,000 cases of various wines.  

The property is not in Marlborough, but Martinborough.  Sauvignon Blanc is a bit different from the flood of Marlborough wines we see today.

Only 10% of the juice is fermented in wood and the resulting wine offers a hint of lemon grass and gooseberry with a faint spice note.  We enjoy this with seafood, especially sea scallops, Asian-styled dishes and sushi.  

Currently in stock:  ATA RANGI 2012 Martinborough SAUVIGNON BLANC $20.99

ANDREW RICH

Andrew 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.

It comes from Croft Vineyards, a major (certified organic) grower in Polk County.  What's fascinating about Andrew's Sauvignons is the vintage variation.  

Some vintages have been very herbaceous, while others show an almost peach-like intensity.  

The 2013 is not for the faint of heart...this is a Sauvignon Lover's Sauvignon:  it's got that almost onion-like pungency, herbal character that pairs handsomely with well-seasoned seafood dishes.  It's dry and beautifully crisp...a good wine to try if you've been enjoying Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume wines.

Currently in stock:  ANDREW RICH 2013 Willamette Valley SAUVIGNON BLANC $19.99

 

SAINT CLAIR

The Ibbotsons began as grape growers in the late 1970s and began making wine in the mid-1990s.  They're in the Marlborough region of New Zealand on a property settled by someone named Sinclair.  Today the place is called Saint Clair.

We've been fans of their hugely expressive, not-so-subtle Sauvignon Blancs.  

The wine routinely is very aromatic and "loud".  I recall pouring a taste of a Saint Clair Sauvignon for a visiting French winemaker and the fellow winced when he stuck his nose in the glass.  Expecting a Sauvignon he could recognize with overt minerality and hints of citrus, the fellow found something which was a world apart from the wine he makes...

So, instead of a wine clothed in a suit & tie, he found something more reminiscent of this get-up:


Okay...maybe we're being a bit extreme in describing the Saint Clair wine, but it's a wonderful rendition of New Zealand Sauvignon with loads of citrus, gooseberry and grapefruit.  At it's not a shy, shrinking violet of a wine which is why we like enjoying a bottle from time to time.

Currently in stock:  SAINT CLAIR 2013 "Family Estate" Marlborough SAUVIGNON BLANC  Sale $15.99

 

 




 
 
 
 
 



 

 





 

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