Sauvignon Blanc Tasted October 2010

All 21 Wines Tasted


Even though there is a decided chill in the air, I can't help but enjoy a glass of Sauvignon Blanc now and again. It's more than a little surprising to even myself, but I love the lean, refreshing nature of Sauvignon Blanc, particularly when it's paired with the right foods. Chèvre anyone?

In the summer Sauvignon Blanc works almost all the time, but as winter approaches I find myself using it more as an aperitif and a starter white due to its versatility with food. I know many people who indulge their Sauvignon Blanc itch with much more abandon than me, and perhaps they are onto something.

One thing I notice more and more with certain grapes, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc in particular, is that no matter where they are planted they tend to produce enjoyable, distinctive, unique expressions of their own innate characteristics while allowing the vineyard's terroir to shine through. Maybe that's why I enjoyed this group of Sauvignon Blanc from California so much!

2008 Flora Springs Soliloquy Vineyard Oakville – Napa Valley 14.2%

Light and bright on the nose with green peppers over low ripe peach tones and a slightly mineral base with floral top notes that recall clover. This has a slightly unusual nose for Sauvignon Blanc, showing restraint and a subtle, layered complexity. Very light and almost airy on entry with a salty, slatey thing going on right up front. On the mid-palate this plays its cards close to its vest with that fine mineral edge just barely covered by sweet gooseberry tones that offer up a suggestion of red currant. The finish reveals a fine backbone of acidity and a return of that minerality. This is a super wine: balanced, holding its alcohol well, and offering some compelling complexity without much weight. Bravo! 92pts

2009 Girard Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 13.9%

Very focused on the nose with understated aromas of green chili, dried chili, grapefruit peel, Thai basil, and bay leaf. Really lovely entry shows off this wine's weight and height. It’s not a heavy wine but grows to fill the mouth with bright grapefruit and pineapple tones that gain an edge of peach skin. It’s a transparent wine that does not lack for flavor or intensity and turns on the backend to reveal a very linear, clear citrus and mineral tone with fine length. A lovely, bright style that captures the essence of Sauvignon Blanc. 92pts

2007 Dry Creek Vineyard Taylor’s Creek Musque Sauvignon Blanc 14.5%

This smells of a mélange of ripe passionfruit, guava, and pink grapefruit topped with gentle suggestions of white pepper, star anise and apple butter with a sweetly floral top note.  It enters the mouth with rich power but quickly gains tension in the, revealing an initial candied pink grapefruit note before adding slightly sweet, honied notes of peach, fig and soft cantaloupe tones that lead to a firm, lightly spicy finish. The acid drives the long finish, which is a touch raspy with an edge of bitter nut oil on the finale. 91pts

2009 Twomey Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 13.9%

Lightly wood and noticeably nutty on the nose with background notes of very ripe pineapple and lime peels with a top note of smoke and begonias. This is very suave in the mouth with good acidity that is well-buffered by the almost opulent texture of the fruit. There’s a spice edge and some lovely deep, sweet citrus-glazed fruit notes across the palate that yield to a rather vibrant mineral and herb inflected, moderately long finish. Really nicely layered and very well done. 91pts

2009 Fortress Red Hills Lake County Musque Clone Sauvignon Blanc 14.2%

Intensely fruity on the nose but in a good way, with rich tones of minerals, a touch of vanilla, lime blossoms, small red apples, and dusty soil tones. In the mouth this is rich and bright with a nice mineral edge to the ripe white orchard fruit, melon, and quince-like fruit. The finish is really focused with a nice acid spice cleansing the mouth and a fine dusting of tannin on the finale. This seems lean and focused at some moments but then fills the mouth with its crisp white-fleshed orchard fruits. 91pts

2009 Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc Sonoma County 13.9%

A fair bit of noticeable smoky toast reaches the nose with a creamy edge to the ripe, pineappley and citrusy fruit tones that is backed up with lightly dried jalapeno notes. This is rich with rounded edges up front; full of sweet, mango and peach fruit tones edged in vanilla, and light spice tones. There are some nice grassy top notes in the mouth and a dried yellow fruit tone on the backend that leads to a creamy, lemon curd and vanilla-laced finish. A rather round and supple, yet rich Fume. 90pts

2007 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Estate Fume Blanc DCV3  13.5%

This offers up intense aromatics yet remains subtle and layered with lovely depth to the dried poblano chili, fig, melon and lime pith aromas. Soft and silky on entry, this gains weight in the mouth. The wine remains very well-balanced yet gets a soft, fleshy feel that fills the mouth with citrus fruit and grassy notes. The backend is nice and bright, with a hint of minerality and a succulent green herb edge to the sweet citrusy, pineapple-tinged fruit finale that ends with a soft hint of crème caramel. 90pts

2009 Duckhorn Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 13%

Gentle on the nose with lightly floral and spice-shaded notes of melon and peach. This is medium-bodied and almost lush in the mouth, with fine balance that gives the soft feel a satin sheen. The fruit flavors are nicely ripe, very melon and peach-driven like the. There’s a hint of lime zest as well, leaning more towards grapefruit on the backend, which shows a gentle creamy edge. The finish is clear and refreshingly mineral-laden. An understated example of Sauvignon Blanc that exhibits a rather refined profile. 90pts

2009 Benziger Family 60% Sonoma County/ 40% Lake County 13.5%

Intensely aromatic with a distinct grassy, smoked chili edge buffered by rich notes of citrus, melon and guava. This has an underlying smoky edge adding some depth and additional complexity. Round on entry then firming up slightly across the mid-palate, which delivers a rich mouthful of zesty, kiwi, grapefruit, and slightly almondy fruit. The acid really drives the refreshing finish with the flavors remaining fresh and bright. 89pts

2009 Decoy Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 13%

A low and earthy note greets the nose, with faint background notes of lemon verbena and herbs adding depth to the lightly honeyed peach and citrus fruit. This is almost opulent on entry with a fine, rich, melon and honey entry that is followed by lush notes of dried orchard fruits on the mid-palate. It’s a softer style but with enough acidity to stay bright and focused. The finish turns nicely linear with a touch of peach skin on the finale. Longer citrus notes help extend the finish. Nicely done with good depth and complexity and a fine textural balance. 89pts

2009 Charles Krug Napa Valley 13.5%

Sweetly scented with notes of banana, pineapple, grapefruit zest, and tarragon. This is soft and offers up an impression of sweetness on the attack with flavors of peach and a gentle accent of pineapple with a hint of minty herb on the mid-palate. Round and slightly on the richer side, this is accessible right through the lightly spicy pineapple and grapefruit toned finish that ends with a nice touch of nectarine. 89pts

2008 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 13.5%

Deep and fragrant on the nose, with notes of pear and chestnut offsetting the sweet herb, pea shoot and rich muskmelon base notes. This has a touch of lessiness that adds a nice accent note as well. Very broad in the mouth with good acidity and an almost sweet edge to the candied grapefruit and melon flavors. This is definitely a crowd-pleaser of a wine with a lush feel and fresh, deep fruit flavors that finish with a touch of bay leaf and citrus pith on the moderate finish. 89pts

2009 Frei Brothers Russian River Valley Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 13.9%

Very fresh and fragrant on the nose with a classic blend of gooseberry, grass and grapefruit spiced up with some white pepper nuances. Perhaps a hint of sweetness here helps to round out the mouthfeel and balance the vibrant spine of acidity that is supporting the core of melon and grapefruit flavors. There’s a soft streak of vanilla and spice running through the mid-palate that leads to the bright, citrusy finish. Good length here and nice purity to the fruit. 88pts

2009 Ehlers Estate St. Helena Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 13.5%

Very fruit-driven on the nose with rich, almost sweet-smelling pink grapefruit and pineapple tones. There’s a little lilac and some fine cut grass, but this is not a particularly grassy example of Sauvignon Blanc. Round and generous in the mouth, with good acidity and medium body giving this a slightly weighty impression. Plenty of fruit, a hint of peach bathed in pineapple and pithy citrus flavors lead to a slightly short, fruity finish. This is not a wow wine but I still like this very much as it's in a style I really enjoy. 88pts

2009 J. Lohr Carol's Vineyard Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 13.5%

Subdued on the nose with sweet floral tones and dried chili aromas over light, pithy grapefruit and gooseberry tones. Bright on entry and nicely rounded in the mouth with plenty of acidity to keep things lively. The flavors recall the nose with lightly layered notes of lime, grapefruit, and sweet floral tones. The mid-palate is a touch lightly flavored, though the acidity makes the moderate-length finish really snap, with a hint of pea shoots and a lightly spicy edge to the finish. 87pts

2008 Wrath Destruction Level Monterey Sauvignon Blanc 13.2%

A little almondy on the nose at first, then very driven by lime blossom, lime pith, and herb notes. This has a lightly oaky element that drives through but never tops the fruit, as well as a rather flinty note that adds an interesting top note. The smoky aspect of the nose adds a vegetarian grill note, maybe a little baba ghanoush even. In the mouth this is fairly opulent, certainly round, and the oak element is a little more obvious. There’s a touch of wood tannin present on the palate, too. The wine exhibits good fruit on the palate and the finish but drops off a bit quickly. 87pts

2009 Whitehaven Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 13%

Fairly intense and grassy with gooseberry and freshly crushed jalapeño notes on the nose. This enters the mouth with a little sweetness that is almost immediately swept away by really vibrant acidity that supports vaguely sweet lemon, lime and slightly passionfruity flavors. The finish sees a return of an herbal edge but is long and driven by lime oil tones, ending on a light mineral note. 87pts

2008 Shaw and Smith Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 13%

Really fresh on the nose with lime fruit, lime leaf and light mineral water and wild flower notes. In the mouth it’s a bit soft, a touch round, but very approachable with simple yet approachable flavors of lime, honeydew melon, and a hint of guava that extends out through the moderately long finish. Nicely balanced and very approachable with a nice feel throughout. 87pts

2008 Deep Sea Arroyo Seco Monterey County Sauvignon Blanc 14.3%

This shows a very grassy, bell pepper nose with white pepper edges framing the core of very ripe guava/mango-toned fruit. It’s a bit of an odd juxtaposition, but it does create an interesting bouquet. In the mouth it is on the softer side, a bit creamy across the mid-palate with some tropically tinged fruit notes. A slightly large framed, round expression of Sauvignon Blanc. 86pts

2009 Robert Mondavi Private Selection California Sauvignon Blanc 13%

Lightly creamy on the nose with intense grass and green pepper notes that are backed up with gentle lime, gooseberry, and kiwi notes. A bit soft on entry but firming up nicely in the mouth. This exhibits good varietal character and is well-balanced. It’s not a big or intense wine but the soft blend of herbal and fruit flavors in the mouth are well-balanced. The finish is a touch disjointed and short but the simple flavors of lime and grapefruit are refreshing. 83pts

NV Barefoot California Sauvignon Blanc 13%

Lightly chili-scented on the nose with slow-to-emerge notes of dried flowers, lime oil and cut grass. Light in the mouth, not intensely flavored but with some nice citrusy fruit. A bit indistinct but more neutral than anything else. There’s a touch of melon fruit on the mid-palate followed by some pithy grapefruit on the modest finish. 80pts

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: cjscar
    119927 4

    wish a few more New Zealand wines had been included like Cloudy Bay, Vila Maria or Three Ton but am pleased to hear more of the California breeds and will positively try several that you featured. In general most of the California SBs I have tried were not up to snuff and initially seemed to represent Californias rush to break into the New Zealand market. Perhaps there has been a solid improvement since my experimentations.

    Oct 07, 2010 at 11:56 AM

  • Try Hanna sauvignon blanc, delectible

    Oct 07, 2010 at 12:40 PM

  • Snooth User: latviete21
    379181 32

    i agree that the hanna sauv blanc is pretty amazing. i would have liked to see husch's renegade on this's a peachy melon dance on your tongue style sauv blanc worth some attention. and the classic geyser peak sauv blanc with its intense minerals and grassy finish is delightful as well.

    Oct 07, 2010 at 2:30 PM

  • You missed out Hall (both Napa and Alexander Valley), Cliff Lede and Sequoia Grove. Big omissions ...

    Oct 07, 2010 at 2:42 PM

  • I am a relatively new convert to Sauv Blanc - I really enjoy it chilled in the summer time. Since I don't have a lot of experience with Sauv Blanc, I am always looking for recommendations - will try a few of these. I also like Cliff Lede, Chalk Hill and Provenance. Thanks

    Oct 07, 2010 at 4:11 PM

  • Snooth User: foopsi
    89718 14

    where's Merry Edwards???? It blows all of the CA wines listed I've tried away. In an attempt at fairness though, it's likely an omission only because it's not usually available at retail - pretty much from the winery only. If you hurry, you may also get to score the killer dessert SB - may already be gone by now and she's not likely to do another for some time...

    Oct 07, 2010 at 4:22 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 5,000

    I imagine Greg just has wines sent to him for sampling/tasting as a superset to select from. If those wineries mentioned in the comments above sent him samples they'd certainly be included.

    At some point it would be interesting to see a comparison of a half-dozen of the best from CA, NZ, the Graves and the Loire. My bet is that NZ would end up with the worst scores, and knowing Greg perhaps the Loire the best. If I were tasting, the Graves might inch a bit ahead, though of course it depends on the producer's effort in a particular vintage. Nonetheless NZ with its too-far-out-on-a-limb, warped expression will not compare well to the OldWorld, or so I predict.

    I wish more Kiwis would apprentice in the OldWorld then headback home and start implementing some new practices in the vineyards and particularly the winery. I view NZ wines as perhaps being on the same curve as Aussie's a decade or more ago. Success in one direction leading to excess, then with a pendulum swing in market perceptions a bad case of indifference/irrelevance. Of course Australia has a depth that won't allow them to stay down for long. NZ also has very talented winemakers who'll come to the fore once Cloudy Bay wrongheadedness is knocked on its heels by a market backlash.

    Greg, was good to see this grouping of Californians, and I'll be keeping an eyeout for the Girard and Fortress offerings which I've not yet had. I have known the Flora Springs, Twomey and Duckhorn SBs, and have a similar reaction to yours. And I, also, enjoy SB all year round.

    Oct 07, 2010 at 5:16 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 5,000

    Oh, and I suppose there should be an 'others' category in that worldwide comparative tasting, to include South Africa and northern Italy, etc.

    Oct 07, 2010 at 5:21 PM

  • I love Sauvignon Blanc, and have found that the rest of the world does a more intriguing job with this grape then California. That said I lived in Novato California and Sunday was wine tasting day. I did find there is quite a lot of small wineries, Husch as mentioned for example, doing very good and interesting Sauvignon Blanc's. Most I found were in Dry Creek, Anderson Valley, and in the foothills. Mostly $18 and up and that brings a lot of international competition to the table.
    I agree with a couple of previous posts that the southern hemisphere delivers a sea of very good SB much of it under $15. and France puts a very good selection for under $20.
    Maybe you use your connections to taste and review more of these, it would be greatly appreciated.

    Oct 07, 2010 at 5:22 PM

  • Snooth User: cjscar
    119927 4

    infinitypp.....picked up a couple of bottles of Hannah.....very delicate but full. We enjoyed it but personally I prefer my SB to have a tad more punch, leaning to a bright white burgandy. Do thank you for the tip on Hannah though, it will have a permanent place in my rack.

    Oct 12, 2010 at 2:39 PM

  • Snooth User: Tisalynn
    394462 68

    SB has become my favorite 'drink alone' wine. It pretty easy to find quality at value prices. I also enjoy the variety among regions and even producers.

    Oct 17, 2010 at 10:29 AM

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