When it comes to consumer interest in white wines, all white grapes take a back seat to chardonnay.But sauvignon blanc enjoys an increasingly strong second place. California sauvignon blanc is a good barometer, especially since there arguably is more good California sauvignon blanc on the market than ever.
Sauvignon blanc is one of the world’s most widely planted grape varieties. It is responsible for famed French wines of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley and has found hospitable surroundings in Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Chile.
Its flavor profile ranges from assertively aromatic and refreshing with brisk citrus, and a distinctive herbaceousness (sometimes fresh-cut hay or grass) to seasoned melon, tropical, peach or stone fruits, often with anise or oak.
Most of the wines are fermented and aged in stainless steel to emphasize fresh, varietal characteristics, while some use various amounts of mostly neutral oak to round out flavors and texture.
In recent years, wineries have employed a wider variety of vessels, including concrete tanks, stainless steel barrels,and amphorae, for fermentation and aging, along with practices such as lees stirring to build complexity and texture.
There were two excellent everyday values from the Dry Creek Vineyard in my tasting. Both are focused on varietal character and the grape’s trademark racy acidity. The Sonoma County “Fumé” ($16) is aromatic, juicy with spicy herbs; the Dry Creek Valley ($20) emphasizes citrus, melon and licorice.
I found more complexity and flavor interest as prices escalated. All but three are from the Napa Valley.
They are listed in order of preference but all are recommended:
• 2020 Gamble ($35) from an estate vineyard near Yountville, brisk, citrus, licorice, spice.
• 2020 Alma de Cattleya ($22) Sonoma fruit; spicy herb, juicy melon, citrus.
• 2019 The Paring Santa Ynez Valley ($25) vibrant, gooseberry, lemongrass.
• 2019 Acumen Mountainside ($30) Napa Valley winery but Dry Creek Valley grapes; bright citrus, succulent.
• 2020 Duckhorn ($32) aromatic, focused citrus, tropical, herbal, elegant.
• 2019 Chalk Hill Estate ($33) from the Chalk Hill area in eastern Sonoma; rich honeydew, lemon, and tropical fruit.
• 2020 Ladera Ryan’s Vineyard ($36) from Oak Knoll District of southern Napa, fresh hay citrus, melon, spicy.
• 2019 Cliff Lede Napa Valley ($28) elegant, tangy citrus, pear, herbal.
• 2020 Spottswoode ($42) Sonoma and Napa fruit; intense citrus, herbal spice, textural richness, balanced with vibrant structure.
• 2020 Cuvaison Méthode Béton ($40) deep citrus, graceful creaminess, refreshing melon, juicy lemon, persistent.
• 2019 Cuvaison En Cigare ($40) fermented and aged in cigar-shaped oak barrels; taut citrus, lemongrass, rich mouthfeel.
• 2017 Ashes and Diamonds Blanc No. 3 ($45) blend of equal parts semillon and sauvignon blanc; lush mouthfeel, bright structure, only 11.9% alcohol.