Along with the abundance of wine on the market from all corners of the earth comes a number of styles that often obscures the varietal definition of a particular grape. A standard once set by the French is no longer valid in a competitive wine field where New World wines have become more popular.
Pinot noir is a good example. While many producers, including those in California, once aspired to achieve Burgundy’s delicate and balanced style, West Coast winemakers commanded the U.S. market with bold fruit bombs.
The same can be said about sauvignon blanc. The other day one of us enjoyed an expensive sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley of France. The 2014 Dagueneau Pouilly Fume is an extraordinary and expressive wine that sets the bar for sauvignon blanc. Didier Dagueneau was a legend and risk-taker until he died in an ultra-light plane accident in 2008. He defied his neighbors by cutting yields in half and raising the quality and price. He was not afraid to use oak barrels either. As others have said, tasting Dagueneau Pouilly Fume for the first time is an unforgettable revelation. However, it is not the sauvignon blanc that commands the mass market.
The bold sauvignon blancs from New Zealand and the citrusy sauvignon blancs from California is what most people are drinking. Here are a few we have recently tasted:
JUSTIN Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($16). Generous herbal and citrus aromas are followed by green apple, grapefruit and mineral notes.
Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($30). Classic grapefruit and citrus flavors highlight this bracing and mouth-watering sauvignon blanc – the first made by this producer. It is partly aged for six months in oak barrels to boost the complexity.
Gamble Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($28). One of our favorite sauvignon blancs year-to-year, this single-vineyard gem is composed of four clones, including a sauvignon musque which originates from the Loire and another which comes from Bordeaux. Seventy-five percent was aged in oak barrel. It is a complex sauvignon blanc with pink grapefruit, lemon and lime flavors and a touch of minerality. The aromas are extensive with tropical fruit, ginger, and almond notes.
Cakebread Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($30). Fresh acidity embraces the vast aromas of grapefruit and melon character of this delicious wine. Grapefruit carries through to the flavors with an additional layer of guava.
Rombauer Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($24). Lime and mango aromas give way to grapefruit and pineapple flavors in this robust and well-balanced sauvignon blanc from one of Napa Valley’s venerable producers. There is just a moderate level of grassiness.
Benziger North Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($15). Nice and crisp, this value sauvignon blanc has pineapple and citrus flavors with a dash of minerality.
Légende Bordeaux 2018 ($14). This sauvignon blanc, blended with a good dose of semillon, is a good example of the great white wines from Bordeaux. Reasonably priced, it has generous pineapple aromas, fresh acidity, and full body. Made by the house of Barons de Rothschild.
Amici Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($25). Tart citrus and grapefruit notes give way to a softer melon and pear mixture. Balanced acidity and some nice minerality.
More and more celebrities are putting their names on wine bottles. We would be naive to think that they are actually involved in making the wine, but their name alone helps to sell the wine. Here are a couple of new releases:
Z. Alexander Brown Uncaged Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($18). Country singer Zac Brown teams up with winemaker John Killebrew in the second release of these well-priced wines. Drawing grapes from various vineyards in California, the wine is forward in style with ripe blackberry and plum flavors with a dash of chocolate. The “uncaged owl” on the label pays tribute to the sentry that protects the fruit of the vineyards. There is also a Proprietary Red Blend ($18) that is also delicious.
Charles Woodson Intercept Red Blend 2017 ($18). University of Michigan Wolverines can enjoy their next game with a bottle of wine named after this Heisman Trophy graduate and NFL football great. A partnership with O’Neill Vintners & Distillers, Intercept is a line of four decent wines at reasonable prices. We love the label and this Paso Robles blend of petite sirah, zinfandel, petit verdot, tempranillo, and syrah. Juicy, ripe with dark fruit flavors and a full body.
Bootleg Prequel Red Blend Sonoma County 2015 ($35). Another winner from Jackson Family wines, this is a modern-style blend of 85 percent syrah and 15 percent petite sirah. Blueberry, blackberry and black pepper elements make up this outdoor barbecue friendly red wine.
Mullan Road Cellars Columbia Valley Red Wine 2016 ($45). Named after John Mullan, who built a road to connect Montana to Washington state in 1860, this Columbia Valley blend captures the spirit of winemakers willing to take chances. Except in this case, it’s not much of a chance to take when the genius behind the wine is Dennis Cakebread of Cakebread Cellars. It is Cakebread’s first venture out of Napa Valley and he has the assistance of local winemaker Aryn Morrell. A blend of cabernet sauvignon (51 percent), merlot and cabernet franc, it is a wine that will make you thirst for a second and third glass. Black currant, raspberry and rosemary aromas are chased by cherry and plum flavors with a touch of oak. Fine tannins portend good things to come for those who are patient enough to hold this complex and delicious wine.