During warmer weather, it’s natural for wine drinkers to think about cooling off with a refreshing white wine and California Sauvignon Blanc is an ideal choice. But it is also a fine choice anytime you crave a fresh, cool wine.


While it comes in a variety of styles and expressions, it’s assertively aromatic, with refreshing acidity. Expect a flavor profile of brisk green citrus (lime, gooseberry) but also other citrus, especially grapefruit, and a distinctive (sometimes spicy) herbaceousness. Wines made from riper fruit often display peach, melon or even tropical fruits.


Most of the wines are fermented and aged in stainless steel to emphasize fresh, varietal characteristics; some use small amounts of mostly neutral oak and winemaking techniques to round out flavors and add texture.


First, I found a number of good everyday values. These tend to be lighter with the focus on varietal fruit. They are listed in order of price:


  • 2016 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve ($13) juicy, multifaceted
  • 2016 Hess Select ($13) snappy, assertive
  • 2017 J. Lohr “Flume Crossing” ($14)
  • 2016 Edna Valley ($14) nutty, luscious
  • 2016 Murphy-Goode “The Fumé” ($14) tangy, smooth
  • 2017 Two Angels ($17) nicely balanced
  • 2016 Decoy ($20) ripe, refreshing
  • 2017 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Creek Valley ($20) enticingly green, sumptuous


As consumer friendly as these wines are, I found more complexity and flavor interest above $20. The 2016 Sidebar High Valley ($22), sourced from a cool vineyard in Lake County, is lively and succulent with smoke and spice. Without seeing any oak, the bright, assertive 2017 Cuvaison ($24) nicely expresses its cool climate Carneros estate fruit.


From the Russian River Valley, I especially enjoyed Dutton Estate’s brisk, spicy 2016 “Kylie’s Cuvee” ($25) from the family’s highly regarded Dutton Ranch, and the earthy 2017 Davis Bynum “Virginia’s Block” ($25) showcases the vineyard’s ripe fruit. In Napa Valley, another respected vineyard owner, the Gamble Family produced a rich 2016 Gamble Vineyard ($25), showing some oak and spice.


And there were several that breached the $30 threshold but each is exceptional.


The 2017 Acumen “Mountainside” ($30), from high altitude vineyards in Napa Valley’s Atlas Peak appellation, offers noticeable but well integrated oak. With fruit from the Oak Knoll District of southern Napa Valley, the 2017Ladera ($30) offers juicy flavors with a touch of oak.


Three Napa Valley wineries better known for their other wines also make fine Sauvignon Blanc. The lush 2016 Duckhorn ($30) has a nice touch of oak and licorice. The 2015 Grgich Hills Fumé Blanc ($31) is enticingly brisk and herbal. The full-bodied 2017 Ehlers Estate St. Helena ($32) is bursting with clean, varietal qualities and succulent acidity.


Back in Sonoma County, Chalk Hill’s high altitude estate vineyards on the slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains in the Chalk Hill appellation yielded an intense, flavorful 2016 ($33) deftly integrating fruit, oak and structure. My favorite wine of the tasting. And Sidebar’s intense 2016 Ritchie Vineyard ($34) shows off its 44-year-old Russian River Valley vines, with verve.


And now for something completely different: a Tequila Barrel Aged Sauvignon Blanc from Cooper & Thief (2016, $30). The promo material says this is in answer to the growing popularity of tequila. The wine is aged in Casa Noble Añejo barrels and definitely exhibits tequila aromas and flavors, as well as caramel and vanilla.


About Rich

I first became interested in wine while I worked in numerous liquor stores during college in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. In the years following college, I researched, tasted, traveled to vineyards in California and Europe, participated in countless tastings. I began writing about wine in 1995 with a column in Out Front Colorado. For me, wine is more than a drink. It is food. It is a connection to the earth. It is culture. There is just something amazing, even magical, about the transformation of grapes into wine. It is also remarkable how drinking wine with food enhances the taste and enjoyment of both. Appreciation of wine has become an integral part of my approach to life, which emphasizes balance, respect for nature, physical and emotional health, and an appreciation of our nature as social beings. In 2006, I was awarded a fellowship to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers.