With the hottest part of the summer season upon us, we find ourselves reaching for white wines with crisp acidity. Their cooling agree-ability and refreshing nature take the sting out of the oppressive heat that drives us indoors.
Sauvignon blanc, in particular, has the acidity and stone-fruit character that marries so well with summer fare. Its herbal and grapefruit character make sauvignon blanc a great wine to serve with vegetable platters, spicy satays, and cold pasta.
Sauvignon blanc varies widely in style, according to the region in which its grapes are grown. Some of you are loyal to New Zealand’s assertive sauvignon blanc while others refuse to drink them. These wines have a pronounced grassy character with loads of grapefruit and acidity. In warmer climates, such as California, sauvignon blancs show more peach and Meyer lemon flavors. In cooler climates, such as Chile and France, the wines show more bell pepper, thyme, grass, and mineral notes.
In the United States, the grape is often blended with semillon or a musque clone of sauvignon blanc to give the wine more dimension and smoothness. Rarely is sauvignon blanc fermented in oak barrels – when it is, you hardly recognize its naturally refreshing character.
Here are some of our recently favored sauvignon blancs:
Dutton Estate Kylie's Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($25). Named after Joe and Tracy Dutton's middle daughter, this round and bold sauvignon blanc is a winner. We liked the balanced acidity that keeps the wine fresh but not tart. This comes as a result of four months of barrel fermentation, whole-cluster pressing and the musque clones that give sauvignon blanc a distinct flavor profile.
Gamble Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($25). One of our perennial favorites, this complex wine utilizes four sauvignon blanc clones, including musque. The result is a broad array of citrus, apple, peach flavors with generous aromas, balanced acidity and a honey-like mouthfeel.
Acumen Napa Valley Mountainside Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($30). Acumen was spared from the wires that blazed up Soda Canyon Road. Good thing. This sauvignon blanc, picked before the fires began, blossoms with tangerine and pear aromas that mingle with varietal grapefruit and lemon flavors. Unlike most sauvignon blanc, it spends some time in oak barrels.
Ladera Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($30). You can step up your game in sauvignon blanc with this delightfully complex version. Using grapes from the Oak Knoll district, it is rich with ripe tropical fruit flavors and generous floral and honeysuckle aromas. Sauvignon musque makes up 20 percent of the blend and provides a broader dimension to the wine.
Duckhorn Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($30). Do you want to step up your sauvignon blanc game? This is it. The 18 percent semillon in this wine provides melon and softness to sauvignon blanc's citrus and grapefruit notes. Complex with nice minerality.
Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc 217 ($14). A great value, this organic wine has crisp fruit character with notes of peach and lemongrass.
Sidebar Ritchie Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($34). Winemaker David Ramey has a pretty good $22 sauvignon blanc, but we loved the complexity in this single-vineyard version from 44-year-old vines. Using only native yeasts, concrete egg fermenters, and whole-cluster pressing, he is able to extract purity and a rich texture. Classic grapefruit flavors with the addition of mineral, fig, and lime.
Robert Mondavi Oakville Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($40). The addition of semillon to this wine and its barrel aging on the lees for 9 months gives a rich and creamy texture as well as another layer of flavor. It stood out in a flight of California sauvignon blancs as different and wonderful. Peach and apricot flavors abound.
Jayson Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($30). This is Pahlmeyer's first sauvignon blanc and it's a dandy. Varietal flavors of pineapple, grapefruit and white peach with crisp, balanced acidity and a long finish.
Chalk Hill Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($33). Fermented in oak for seven months with no malolatic fermentation, this delicious wine has 11 percent sauvignon gris and 6 percent sauvignon musque to give it a broad character. Grapefruit and melon flavors with hints of apricot and mineral.
Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($20). Another good value from New Zealand’s Marborough region, this wine has a grassy, grapefruit and citrus character.
Rutherford Ranch Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($16). We had the pleasure of tasting this wine with winemaker Jay Turnipseed. It is a clean, straight-forward sauvignon blanc with varietal character and no oak fermentation. Great as a summer sipper.
Robert Mondavi Oakville Fume Blanc 2015 ($40). The 14 percent semillon in this sauvignon blanc adds a creamy texture to an otherwise brilliant wine with stone fruit flavors and hints of herbs and lime.
NZ7 ($20). One of Dave Phinney's "Locations" wines, this version is pure New Zealand sauvignon blanc. His other wines – among them E5 (Spain), F5 (France) and WA5 (Washington) -- blend grapes across countries or states. For the price, you get a lot of flavor from the sauvignon blanc. Classic grapefruit and citrus flavors with a nod to the country's grassy and mineral influences.
Catalina Sounds Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($16). Full body for a sauvignon blanc, this New Zealand wine has classic grapefruit and herbal notes with hints of lime and mineral.
Saint Clair Family Estate Origin Series Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($28). Using the top 10 percent grapes from a vineyard in the Wairau Valley of New Zealand, this family-owned winery has a hit. Crisp with pure fruit character, it has intense grapefruit, passion fruit and herbal flavors.
Davis Bynum Virginia’s Block Sauvignon Banc 2017 ($25). From the Russian River Valley, this gem has green apple and pineapple notes with a dash of peach and herbs. It is aged in barrel for 4 months.
Cuvaison Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($24). Pineapple, passion fruit and citrus notes make this a delightful quaff in the summer