In Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon is king, and rightly so, consumers demand it and will pay a premium for it. But Cabernet is not the only Sauvignon grown in the valley. Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc is a serious wine that is not to be ignored.
Sauvignon Blanc is not an ideal in warmer climate grape, it can become over-ripe with unbalanced high alcohol. Although Napa is a warmer climate it is a diverse valley with many microclimates – some suitable to grow Sauvignon Blanc.
Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc shy away from of grapefruit and gooseberry. You will have to stick to New Zealand for those wines. Napa leans more toward a French style – flinty, mineral driven, and textural due to some time in oak. These wines tend to be broad on the palate with complexity. Dare I say more interesting but less zesty than their New Zealand counterparts. Case in point, many of the Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc wines are food wines – pair with poultry, pork, salad, seafood, shell fish, cheese, pasta, and eggs. New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are lighter in weight, perfect for sipping by the pool, at the beach, or as an aperitif.
Wineries in Napa Valley do not produce a large volume of Sauvignon Blanc, making it a challenge for consumers to find. However, several wineries produce enough for national distribution, and those with limited production offer online ordering and deliver, a must for broad wine consumption in 2018.
In May I attended the Wine Writer’s Educational Tour in Napa Valley where I tasted many high quality Sauvignon Blancs. Additionally, I have a received many samples of these wines as well. Here is a round – up of my favorites for your summer enjoyment.
2015 Grgich Hills Estate Fume Blanc Napa Valley USA ($31): Any serious conversation about Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc begins with Grgich. Winemaker Mike Grgich was arguably the first to craft a serious Sauvignon Blanc when he was the winemaker at Robert Mondavi. The Grgich Fume Blanc is estate grown organically, made using native yeast, 80% fermented in French oak casks called foudres, then aged six months on the lees in neutral barrels. About 80% planted is the Musque clone, giving the wine a bright floral nose as it mingles with tropical fruit, citrus, and minerality. On the palate it is medium bodied, a rich texture, medium+ acidity, and a long pleasing finish. Visit the Grgich Hills Estate web site to purchase.
2015 Robert Mondavi Winery Fume Blanc Reserve To Kalon Vineyards Napa Valley USA ($55): Another iconic Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc from one of Napa’s finest vineyards. First planted in 1960, these vines are dry-farmed, head-trained and caned-pruned to offer pure varietal expression and complexity. This beautiful wine delivers notes of bright citrus, tropical fruit, and stone fruit, with notes of verbena and sweet alyssum, orange zest, and steely minerality. It is rich and round on the palate, medium bodied, high acidity, textural, with a long finish. Visit Robert Mondavi to purchase.
2017 Silver Trident Winery Symphony No 9 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley USA ($32): This wine is crafted with a blend of Sauvignon Blanc Clone 1 and the Musque clone, and sourced from vineyards in Rutherford, lower Napa Valley, and Carneros. The grapes are hand harvested and whole cluster pressed. Fermentation is 75% stainless steel and 25% neutral French oak with lees stirring to create a touch of creaminess throughout fermentation. The end result is a wine with notes of ripe stone fruit, citrus, and fresh grassy notes. The palate has a rich texture and medium body but still lifts off the palate with notes of fresh fruit and a thread of minerality. The high acidity leaves you wanting another sip. Visit the Silver Trident Winery web site to purchase.
2017 Rombauer Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley USA ($24): This is the fourth release of this wine. After a whole cluster pressing the grapes are fermented in 90% stainless steel and 10% neutral French oak to add weight and texture to the wine. After three months the wines are blended back together and bottled under screw-cap. Notes of key lime, tropical fruit, nectarine, and dried herbs envelop the senses. The palate offers a lively high acidity with a touch of minerality and a pleasing texture that is light yet noticeable. Fresh and vibrant with a long finish. Visit the Rombauer web site to purchase.
2017 Ehler’s Estate Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley USA ($32): Winemaker Kevin Morrisey seeks to make this wine in a French Sancerre style. The grapes are organically grown. The wine sees no new oak and is aged on its lees for some time to create a textural creaminess on the palate. Citrus (lime zest), stone fruit, and lemon blossom entice; medium bodied, high acidity, and complexity allure. This wine will be gone too fast, order more than one bottle. Visit Ehler’s Estate web site to purchase.
2017 Cliff Lede Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley USA ($25): I must confess I have been drinking this wine for years. A true Napa Valley wine because the grapes are sourced throughout the valley. It is also the only white wine made by Cliff Lede. It is a blend of clones, including Musque, and some Semillon is added to the wine. Hand harvest grapes are whole cluster pressed. Fermented in 58% French oak barrels, 37% stainless steel tanks, and 5% concrete egg. The wines was aged on its lees and underwent battonage (a gentle stirring). The results are a Bordeaux style white wine – notes of melon, citrus, quince, dried herbs and white floral notes mingle with a touch of pie crust and vanilla. It is a rich textural wine, medium+ bodied, high acidity and a long finish. Visit the Cliff Lede Vineyards web site to purchase.
2016 Flora Springs Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley USA ($26): Grapes for this wine are grown in Oakville and Rutherford. This wine was aged for seven months in a variety of vessels including stainless steel tanks, large wooded foudres, concrete tanks, small oak barrels, and stainless steel drums. The wine in barrel was aged sur lie. This effort results in notes of orange blossom, Korean melon, nectarines, citrus zest, and trailing baking spice. It is rich and textural on the palate, medium bodied, high acidity, and a long finish. Visit Flora Spring’s web site to purchase.
2016 Cornerstone Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley USA ($30): Crafted with a bit of Musque clone, it offers bright floral notes of jasmine and orange blossom, tropical fruit, melon, and citrus zest. Fermented in a blend of stainless steel and neutral French oak adds complexity to the texture, high acidity, medium body, long finish. Visit Cornerstone Cellars to purchase.
2015 Gamble Family Vineyards Heart Block Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley USA ($90): When I had lunch with Tom Gamble in April he stressed how seriously he takes Sauvignon Blanc. He knew early on his Yountville vineyards would producing quality juice and he was right. His neighbors thought he was crazy planting Sauvignon Blanc in the 90’s when everyone else was planting Merlot. At lunch he brought the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc (read more in Tom Gamble: Quietly Crafting Wines to be Enjoyed with Life) but he did not bring the Heart Block. I was thrilled to taste this small production wine while in Napa Valley. The wine is crafted of two French clones – one from Loire Valley, the other from Graves in Bordeaux. It is made with the highest level of intentionality – offering notes of acacia, orange marmalade, caramel apples, white pepper, and trailing flint. It is more savory than fruity, high acidity, full-bodied, complex and textural on the palate; rich and elegant with a long finish. Visit Gamble Family Vineyards web site to learn more.
2017 Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley USA ($18): We close with a lighter, fruitier Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes for this wine were principally sourced from the Charles Krug estate vineyard in St. Helena. Crafted in an aromatic style, this wine saw no oak – instead it was fermented in stainless steel, resulting in a medium – bodied wine that is fresh and bright. Notes of fresh picked white floral bouquet mingle with tropical fruit, citrus, and stone fruit. It is lively with racy acidity and very refreshing. Visit Charles Krug web site to purchase.