Napa Valley Sauvignon should have broad appeal, but it’s still a relatively unsung category. Chardonnay gets all the glory, although both remain tucked deep into the shadow of Cabernet. Yet Sauvignon Blanc performs well in the climate and soils of the region. And for those who passionately dislike (I stop short of using the word “hate”) the grassy, pungent style associated with the cooler climates of France or New Zealand, California’s warm weather and sun-soaked days produce a fruitier, even happier, expression.
Christopher Tynan, winemaker at Cliff Lede Vineyards, likes working with Napa Sauvignon. “The consistently agreeable climate allows the grape to express its full range of pure fruit flavors, seductive perfume, and lush, unctuous texture,” allowing him to make a “full-bodied, mouth coating wine.”
According to winemaker Jim Close of Gamble Family Vineyards, Yountville is the sweet spot for this aromatic white. As one of the more southern AVAS, “it’s warm and sunny enough for the green herbaceous flavors to dissipate yet cool enough at night that the zesty, zingy acid is retained” he said.
Others, like Dan Petroski, required a bit more convincing. “I had no intention of making Sauvignon. My original plan, back in 2009 when I started Massican, was to make a singular white wine blend with Tocai, Ribolla, Chardonnay, and some Sauvignon Blanc.” Through the process of harvesting and fermenting each grape independently, Petroski discovered his Sauvignon had a rather strong character. “It had its own presence in the glass and when blended, even at 10 percent, it was too aggressive. So, I bottled it on its own, to my chagrin.”
With time, however, the wine grew on him. “It has become the darling of the portfolio due to its atypical personality. Napa Valley sunshine can produce exotic and tropical Sauvignons, very delicious wines. But these grapes, planted in 1993 in one of Napa’s warmest climates, produce an intense wine that is incredibly restrained when it comes to fruitfulness.” Petroski’s Sauvignon has become one of his best sellers, to the extent that he signed a new vineyard lease and plans to double production. (Current production is quite small at a mere 300 cases.)
Massican, Sauvignon, 2015, $30
Ripe nectarine, meyer lemon, and orange citrus notes with striking acidity and a stony minerality. A little tart, a little crunchy, easy to drain. Would love with cold watermelon and feta salad sprinkled with lemon-basil leaves. One day, when Petroski makes more, and I own a place in the Hamptons, I’ll stock this as my summer “house” wine. One day. (Lauren Mowery)