We have found over time that people who hate chardonnay seem to gravitate to sauvignon blanc because it is distinctly different and more refreshing on warm days. We get that its crisp acidity and generous grapefruit flavors are palate cleansers, but on the same token, the grassy and citrus attack on the palate can make the mouth pucker. Finding the right sauvignon blanc for your palate is like walking through a minefield.
In general, New Zealand sauvignon blancs have more grassiness. Not everyone likes a wine that reminds them of freshly mowed grass.
California sauvignon blancs are all over the board. We favor those that add some musque clone to round off the flavors. Adding semillon also can mute the astringency of sauvignon blanc.
Here are some sauvignon blancs we recently tasted and enjoyed:
Decoy Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($20). From the fabulous Duckhorn portfolio, this
simple sauvignon blanc with a dash of sweetness delivers generous flavors and good texture. Varietal grapefruit character with good acidity and a dash of sweetness that seems to round off the edges.
Matanzas Creek Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($15). Every year, this wine strikes us as one of the most unique in a crowd of typical, varietal sauvignon blancs. It is due to the winemaker's daring use of various clones, including the assertive musque clone, that provides big aromas and a peach and mango profile.
Flora Springs Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($26). This wine was aged for seven months in a combination of stainless steel, oak, and concrete to give it more complexity. Layered grapefruit, pear, and citrus flavors with a dash of spice on the finish. Deliciously round in the mouth.
Quivira Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($18). One of our favorite of this year's sauvignon blancs, this Dry Creek version has grassy aromas, but ripe and sweet melon and pineapple flavors.
Sidebar High Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($20). David and Carla Ramey founded this Lake County winery just a few years ago, and these new releases show the winemaker's talents. This sauvignon blanc is aged sur lies in a variety of vessels and includes some musque clone to give it more texture. Crisp acidity and grapefruit citrus flavors. Sidebar’s single vineyard Ritchie sauvignon blanc is a tasting experience but will set you back $34.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Aveta Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($26). The musque clone in this incredible sauvignon blanc and six months of sur lies aging provides a delicious roundness and some unique flavors not often seen in your normal sauvignon blanc. In short, we loved it. Mango, tangerine notes with crisp acidity, just a touch of grass, excellent balance and length. One of our favorite sauvignon blancs this year.
Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County 2015 ($22). Matanzas Creek has produced world-class sauvignon blanc since 1977, and this example is no exception. Very elegant without the excessive acidity and overwhelming citrus notes that plague some sauvignon blancs. It is blended with a mellowing dose of 7 percent semillon. That and 20 percent barrel fermentation in neutral oak barrels produces a balanced drink, featuring grapefruit and peach elements.
Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2915 ($17). Fresh from New Zealand, this zingy sauvignon blanc has varietal grapefruit character and herbal aromas. Balanced and good acidity, it will do well with spring fare.
Wither Hills Winery Rarangi Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2015 ($25). This New Zealand producer is new to us, but we were impressed with its two sauvignon blancs from the Wairu. This single-vineyard edition is packed with citrus and grapefruit flavors.
Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($25). A little semillon goes a long way in this delicious quaff. Bright acidity but a mid-palate roundness that reminds us of melon and apples. Nice citrus aromas too.
Shooting Star Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($14). Good varietal character and, although simple, delivers good value. Fresh acidity, grapefruit flavors and some nice citrus zest.
Ladera Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($30). The sauvignon musque clone in this wine gives a broader and melon profile that we so enjoy. Varietal grapefruit flavors are complemented by lemon zest and fresh acidity.
Montes Spring Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($16). Citrus and peach notes dominate this floral and crisp sauvignon blanc from the Leyda Valley in Chile.
Gamble Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($25). Four clones, including musque, are used to create this wonderful, multi-dimensional wine.
Nobilo Icon Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($22). This New Zealand wine has many fans in our circle. Classic citrus and copious grapefruit flavors with tangy citrus notes. This is for those of you who like your bold New Zealand sauvignon blancs.
Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc 2015 ($20). Mondavi clings to its iconic "fume" when labeling its long-serving sauvignon blanc. That pleases us because it has a unique style with expressive aromas and layered citrus and peach flavors. Rich texture is boosted by a bit of semillon added to the blend.
Mercer Horse Heaven Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($15). Grapefruit and citrus notes with a dash of lychee.
Kendall-Jackson Avant California Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($13). Very nice apple and lemon notes with a bit of sweetness and a good balance.
Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($18). Beautiful aromatics with generous grapefruit and lime flavors, balanced acidity and long finish.