SAUVIGNON BLANC PROVIDES FRESHING DRINKING FOR WARMER WEATHER

Now that temperatures have climbed into the 80s and 90s, I find myself turning to cool, refreshing white wines for relief from the heat and to accompany the lighter foods I also find myself craving. This first of several columns on white wines focuses on Sauvignon Blanc, listed in order of preference but all are recommended.

The grape is one of the parents (with cabernet franc) of the great red grape cabernet sauvignon. It is responsible for the Loire Valley wines of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume and, with semillon, the white Bordeaux of Graves and Sauternes. The grape also has found hospitable surroundings in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and Chile.

In California, winemakers are doing a better job these days of matching clones and vineyard sites and balancing the use of oak barrels and stainless steel in fermentation and aging to emphasize the grape’s zesty green, citrus sometimes tropical and fruits and distinctive herbaceousness. It’s typically quite aromatic, with crisp, refreshing acidity. These traits enable Sauvignon Blanc to pair nicely with the lighter foods of spring and summer.

The first wines I recommend here are mostly fermented and aged in stainless steel to emphasize the varietal characteristics, are lighter and recommended for their straightforward pleasure. Think of them as everyday patio sippers.

2013 Kendall-Jackson “Vintner’s Reserve” ($13). KJ keeps growing and acquiring new wineries but their original line continues to deliver quality at reasonable prices. This one’s succulent citrus and tropical fruit are accented with lemongrass finishing crisp.

2014 Decoy Sonoma County ($20). Baby brother to the Duckhorn below, vibrant herbal notes precede green and tropical fruits in a crisp but softer style.

2014 Pedroncelli East Side Vineyards ($14). From a family with a long history of winemaking the Dry Creek Valley, it’s juicy lime and tropical fruit drinks a little on the sweeter side, with fresh herb notes and a touch of hay to finish.

2014 Layer Cake California ($14). Touches of creamy oats compliment spicy grapefruit and lime for a juicy drink.

2014 Rodney Strong “Charlotte’s Home” ($17). Zesty lime and hints of hay and herbal notes join forces in a fresh, clean style.

2013 Lake Sonoma Sonoma Valley ($17). Nice grassy lemon and orange entry complimented with a touch of melon and richness from a dab of chardonnay.

2013 Wente “Louis Mel” ($15). Fruity tropical notes precede grassy lime fruit; drinks fresh and clean. From a family with five generations of experience growing grapes in the Livermore valley.

Sauvignon Blanc also can be a serious drink that goes exceptionally well with food. These wines in particular show character and complexity that are best enjoyed as accompaniments to food. They all share a winemaking approach that apportions fermentation and aging in stainless steel and at least some (mostly neutral) oak.

2013 Matanzas Creek Bennett Valley ($32). Wonderfully expressive with a broad range of citrus, melon, tropical fruits and lemongrass, this bracing drink, ends invitingly herbaceous.

2013 Duckhorn Napa Valley ($29). Crisp, tropical fruits join melon from 16% Semillon and richness from a significant use of oak, finishing with a touch of minerality.

2013 Atalon Napa Valley ($18). Fresh, lively grapefruit and lemon offset hay and herbal qualities resulting in a succulent drink.

2013 Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley “Fume Blanc” ($30). Opens with juicy, bright lemon and melon qualities while a crisp, firm palate finishes with a spicy herb note.

2013 Matanzas Creek “Helena Bench” ($40). From Sonoma’s Knight’s Valley, this is strong on the herbal, green and spicy qualities of the grape with an assortment of citrus and tropical fruits wrapped in a tangy, yet rich finish.

2013 J. Lohr “Carol’s Vineyard” ($24). This Paso Robles winery also produced this Napa Valley wine of tasty citrus and light herbal notes; drinks crisp, fresh and tangy.

2013 Sonoma Loeb Sonoma Valley ($18). Spicy herbs and citrus with a slight chalky note; follows with melon and a spicy finish.

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.