Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

The greatest white in Napa Valley? What's the story?


Napa Valley’s greatest white wines! That was the idea going into today’s article. I mean, while Sonoma is home to many great Pinot Noir vineyards and thus can be expected to produce great Chardonnays, Napa is home to some of the greatest Cabernet vineyards on earth, so it should be expected to produce great Sauvignon Blancs, right?

Sadly, no. And wrong on so many levels. It’s frankly depressing just thinking about it.

Check Out 6 Top Napa Sauvignon Blancs Slideshow

For starters, because Cabernet is king in Napa and a bottle of Napa Cab commands a premium, Cabernet is planted, well, wherever it can be. That leaves the rest of the valley for all the other varietals. Now don’t get me wrong, there are good wines other than Cabernet Sauvignon produced in the Napa Valley, just not many of them. And even more dispiriting is the price you’re gonna have to pay for them. Yes, in many ways, Napa Valley should produce better Sauvignon Blancs if you accept the premise that it’s prime Cabernet country.

Now, there are a growing number of people who claim that not only will Napa Valley be too warm to grow premium wine grapes in the coming decades, but that is the truth today. The alcohol is just too high and the fruit unbalanced, and the wines show it. That may be true in many cases, though vineyard practices could certainly do much to mitigate those issues.

How much they might be able to do to mitigate the style of Sauvignon Blanc produced in the valley is another story. Even in a cooler-styled vintage such as 2010, a lot of the wines seem to be rather well-endowed, not that I’m fundamentally against that. No, it’s rather the combination of that size and the pricing that turns my smile upside down! To a large extent, I can find better values in Sauvignon Blanc elsewhere, and while not a surprise it is cause for alarm, and I am alarming even myself.

You see, what even my limited sampling of wines tasted for this article seems to indicate is that the great prophet Robert Mondavi was truly a visionary. That goes without saying of course, but what really becomes compelling after tasting Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley is how well they marry to some oak.

Now I’m the first to say "no mas" when it comes to oak, and the truth is I love my Sauvignon Blanc fresh and unoaked; but when you have examples that come from warmer climes, that can be missing something. Surprisingly, a little oak seems to put a Band-Aid right over that hole, adding depth and complexity where before there might have been none.

Yes, even oakophobes must have to admit now and again that there is a place for a gently oaked bottle of Sauv Blanc, particularly with grilled sea scallops, for example! I’m not sure that this group of wines adequately showcases what Napa Valley can do with Sauvignon Banc, but when you do visit the place in all its stunning beauty (and it still is damn pretty to look at) in the middle of summer, you’re gonna want a nice cool white to refresh your palate with. Sticking with a local wine is always a good idea, so check out my recommendations and see if one appeals to you.

If you’re planning a trip to the valley, check out our Spotlight on Napa Valley with some exclusive deals to help make planning your next visit a breeze!

Check Out 6 Top Napa Sauvignon Blancs Slideshow

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: Capn Jax
    885212 13

    Love the Fume Blanc story.

    I recommend Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc from Napa. I always enjoy it! I wish the price were a little lower - I'd buy it more often.

    Jul 14, 2011 at 2:29 PM

  • I reviewed the 6 Top Napa Sauvignon Blancs Slideshow and noticed it doesn't seem to be consistent. There are other Napa Sauvignon Blancs that are rated higher which should have been on the top 6.

    Jul 18, 2011 at 11:34 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    I don't follow you, what wines are you referring to?

    Jul 18, 2011 at 12:22 PM

  • Snooth User: pazos
    90378 11

    Bump Sauvignon Blanc for one; and another consistent and moderately priced Sauv Blanc, Merry Edwards

    May 10, 2012 at 1:37 PM

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