As much as any other varietal, Sauvignon Blanc has specific “camps” that consumers fall into. There are those of us who prefer the super high acid and somewhat green-noted wines from places like New Zealand and the Loire Valley in France, specifically Sancerre. Other wine consumers prefer the citrus-forward wines that come from California, Washington State and other parts of France. Before we delve into the most popular wines, there is one viticultural note on the growing of Sauvignon Blanc (SB).
The green gooseberry note in New Zealand SB is actually accomplished more by vineyard practices than by winemaking. Across most of the globe, Sauvignon Blanc grapes are planted on a north/south axis, allowing for even ripening as the sun moves around the vines every day. In New Zealand, many times the vines are planted on an east/west axis so one side of the vine gets very ripe and the other side does not get very ripe, yielding the more green notes. It is only important to know this when selecting your favorite wines. On to the favorites.
Keith Pilgrim owner and winemaker at Terra Blanca, in Benton City, Wash., makes an absolutely lovely SB from his perch on Red Mountain. The current vintage is 2018 ($13, Wine Club $11.70) and it is not only an amazing value, but also a delicious, crowd-pleasing wine. Aromas of wet-stone minerality and citrus are enhanced with some tropical pineapple aromas and flavors. The wine is crisp, clean and refreshing — as it should be.
The 2016 Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc ($15, Wine Club $13.50) is a great example of classic California SB. Loaded with pink grapefruit flavors and aromas, the wine is the ideal summer afternoon “quaffer.” Before we moved to Coeur d’Alene to open the shop, we lived in the town of Kenwood not far from the winery, and this wine was a staple for gatherings at our home. It has been similarly embraced by wine consumers here in North Idaho.
The 2018 Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc ($30, Wine Club $27) is a rich, special occasion bottle of SB that is worth every penny they get for it. Rombauer is best known for their hugely popular Chardonnay; the SB actually is only in its third vintage — a recent addition for the winery. They’ve done it right from the start, with great depth and layering of flavors that range from citrus to apple to light tropical notes, all adding to the slightly richer presentation.
The 2018 Sean Minor Sauvignon Blanc ($15, Wine Club $13.50) uses fruit mainly grown on the central coast of California, making for a slightly different take on the varietal. It shows a bit more lemon and orange blossom than grapefruit for a really delicious twist on the grape. The Sean Minor wines in general — and the SB in particular — have long been customer favorites for the caliber of wine they get in the bottle for the price. Their reputation is certainly justified.
The 2018 Domaine du Salvard Cheverny ($25, Wine Club $22.50) is the most popular white wine we carry in the shop. It was off the market for a bit and we are thrilled to have it back in stock. Like almost all French wine, it is tagged with the appellation, not the varietal, but the wine is over 75% SB most years, with the remainder being Chardonnay. This year it is 85% Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is unoaked for a crisp and clean presentation. The bit of Chardonnay lends some depth and complexity for an extraordinary wine. There are ample reasons it is the most popular white we sell.
The 2017 Sancerre, from Pascal Jolivet ($40, Wine Club $36), is another wine from the Loire Valley appellation of Sancerre that should not be missed. While many wines from Sancerre can get a bit too green and austere for our and our customer’s tastes, the Jolivet shows lovely richness with flavors and aromas of broiled citrus and stony minerality, leading to a lengthy, layered and elegant finish.
Tune in again next week as we move on to our two most popular red wine varietals, Pinot Noir and Cabernet.
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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.