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Hot Summer Days – Sauvignon Blanc

The wine-growing region of Marlborough on New Zealand's South Island is famed for its Sauvignon Blanc, which makes up 86 percent of New Zealand's wine exports.

The wine-growing region of Marlborough on New Zealand’s South Island is famed for its Sauvignon Blanc, which makes up 86 percent of New Zealand’s wine exports. Courtesy photo

International Sauvignon Blanc Day was April 24 and if you missed it, the weather has caught up with the calendar and you can have your own ISB Day celebration with a wine that’s perfect for warm-weather get-togethers.

Sauvignon Blanc is French in origin but the versatile grape is so popular you can find bottlings from most wine-making areas. The wine shows a range of styles capable of reflecting the terroir of growing regions and offers a zingy acidity as its signature calling card.

Styles vary from the crisp, citrusy flavors (lemon, lime and grapefruit, with a touch of grassiness) of white Bordeaux and Sancerre of the Loire Valley to New Zealand’s cut grass, gooseberry and grapefruit notes with mouth-watering acidity. According to the New Zealand wine website, Sauvignon Blanc makes up 72 percent of the wine produced in the country and 86 percent of the wine exported.

In California, the wine can range from the tropical fruit, citrus and passion fruit similar to that found in New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to the less-angular, oak-influenced notes (an ode to Robert Mondavi) of melons and pineapples.

All three styles can have more or less crisp minerality depending on the winemaking techniques (stainless steel vs. oak barrels) and fermentation temperatures. Here are a few I sampled recently.

Mouton Cadet 2012 Bourdeaux Sauvignon Blanc – Grown in the Entre-Deux-Mers region of Bordeaux where the predominately limestone soils give the wine a crisp minerality and well-balanced notes of pineapple, apricot, citrus and white peach, the mildest of the peach flavors. About $10 (sample). Imported by Constellation Wines US, San Francisco, Cal.

Nobilo Icon 2012 Sauvignon Blanc – According to the winery, 2012 was a classic cool-climate vintage, providing extra hang time for generous fruit flavors and the Icon’s dependable minerality. Grapes for the 2012 blend came from Nobilo’s vineyards in the cooler Awatere Valley (flinty minerality), the warmer Upper Wairau Valley (texture or mouthfeel), and Rapaura (passion fruit, citrus zest) subregions of Marlborough. Notes of green pepper with a hint of jalapeño and lemon zest on the nose and citrus, gooseberry and stony minerality on the palate. $20 (sample).

The Nobilo Regional Collection is from grapes selected from various Wairau and Awatere vineyards. It has notes of pineapple and guava on the nose and ripe tropical fruits and pineapple in the mouth. A well-balanced acidity and long finish add to the wine’s appeal. $11 (sample).

Kim Crawford 2014 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – The grapes for this wine come from the well-drained alluvial soils of Marlborough’s neighboring Wairua and Awatere valleys, home to some of New Zealand’s best South Island Sauvignon Blancs. This 2014 shows crisp acidity and complex range of cut grass and fruit flavors (melon, pineapple, grapefruit, lemon zest and passon fruit) we’ve always enjoyed in Kim Crawford’s wines. About $15 (sample).

SeaGlass Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – Vineyards in the cool Central Coast growing area of Santa Barbara County allows slow ripening and the development of complex tropical flavors with the grape’s characteristic crisp acidity. $11 (purchased). Information here.

Oh, wait, here are my resolutions

January 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Surely it’s not too late for a few New Year’s resolutions? It’s seems so soon to be a few days into the New Year. I was busy trying to find last year’s list, just to see what I missed out on procrastinating about. Just say I’m just well-practiced in putting off making (and breaking) those pesky resolutions. So here goes, a partial salute to the New Year and a look ahead to months of swirling, sipping and scribbling.

Taste more Colorado wines – Notice I specifically didn’t say “drink” more Colorado wines.
There are many in-state wineries whose tasting rooms I’ve yet to sully, and this year I plan to sully as many as possible.
That said, there also are some (many? few?) Colorado wineries who wines aren’t worth drinking, sad to say.Over-reaching, under-ripe, too many chemicals and too few years’ experience all add up to undrinkable. I’ll taste as many as possible and steer away from those who deserve steering away from.

Find the hidden gems – Sounds great, too bad it’s already taken by Colorado Ski Country USA.
Those wise marketing folks at Ski Country know a winner when they market it and I hereby resolve to let you in on the better-kept secrets of Colorado winemaking.
You won’t ready anything about the plonk (see No. 1) but each year I find some gems at the Colorado Mountain Winefest.This year, I’ll take you with me when we swing around the state.

Encourage wine drinkers to use better glassware – Sure, you can use a jelly jar for drinking wines, but then you could drive a Yugo to the Indianapolis 500, too. Good stemware, the kind that allows you to hold, swirl and sniff, isn’t expensive and lets you enjoy the flavors, bouquets and beauty of the wine.
If you think it’s chi-chi or stuck-up or fancified, that’s OK, too. Some day you’ll be served a nice wine in a decent glass and you’ll wonder what took you so long.

Drink more sparkling wine – Like, this might be possible only if they add a few days to the calendar. Don’t save sparkling wines only for “special occasions.” There are some fun sparklers out there costing under $10 and some killers in the $20 and under range.
Besides, haven’t you noticed how opening a sparkling wine – a sparkling wine other than Cold Duck, that is – makes any occasion special?
This also is the year to explore grower Champagnes, wines from farmers who once sold their grape to immense wine houses but now are bottling their own labels.

Try more (domestic) chardonnay – I’ll admit it: Domestic chardonnay is getting better. By “better,” I mean it’s trending away from the over-blown, over-oaked, over-ripe, peaches-and-cream flavors that ruined California chardonnay for millions of former fans. Winemakers are starting to rediscover the taut minerality and vibrant acidity that made chardonnay America’s favorite white wine. South America and South Africa also are producing some excellent chardonnays but the finest chardonnays still come from France.

Explore more – Speaking of California chardonnay, did you know some excellent (not chardonnay) white wines come from Spain (viura), Italy (trebbiano), Germany (riesling), New Zealand (sauvignon blanc) and South Africa (chenin blanc), to name a few varieties? Not to mention Bulgaria (traminer),  Portugal (albariño) and Austria (riesling).
Ditto for red wines. There’s really no excuse for falling into a wine-drinking rut.

Stay out of a wine-drinking rut – Enough said.

Boxing yourself into a new adventure

There always is an adventure waiting when it comes to trying new wines.
While the adventure occasionally proves to be one you’d just as soon miss next time it’s offered, most of the time it’s an adventure worth repeating.
Although I’m not sure it’s considered an adventure the second time around.
Maybe it’s more like falling in love for the second (or third or 20th) time, when it’s the promise of something new and exciting that keeps you on track.
This latest adventure began last winter, arriving in an eight-sided box containing the first of several selections from Octavin’s new Home Wine Bar system of boxed wines.
So far, and six wines into the adventure, it’s been an enjoyable and tasty ride.
Octavin wines (the wine is in a heavy plastic bag, which is inside the eight-sided cardboard box) is produced by Underdog Wine Merchants of Livermore, Cal., who, according to their Web site, are dedicated to offering “unique, esoteric wines that are distinctly characteristic of their origins and variety.”
There’s been a lot written about Underdog and their Octavin wines (check out the media section on the Octavin Web site) in the last six months or so as they’ve become better known and better distributed.
A month or so ago I received the Octavin Silver Birch (N.Z.) 2009 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and then a few days ago, the nice FedEx lady dropped off a box of the Boho Vineyards 2008 California Old Vine Zinfandel.
I opened the Sauvignon Blanc almost immediately, had a couple of glasses, and then kept the wine in the ‘fridge for about 5 weeks. Honest, I didn’t forget it, I was benignly testing the wine’s shelf life, something most boxed wines love to brag about.
Next to the Octavin box was an opened (and re-corked) bottle of SB from another producer, and when I tasted them side by side last week, the bottle was flatter than my 401(k) while the Octavin plastic-sealed wine was fresh and sparkly and wonderfully refreshing on a 98-degree afternoon.
As we all know, light and oxygen are the two greatest enemies of wine, and Octavin’s plastic liner and heavy cardboard box protected the precious liquid inside from both.
Even though I ignored the wine for most of a month, the wine forgave me, retaining its pear and green apple flavors balanced by the minerality (a neat wine-type word that really means something) and crisp acidity associated with the SBs from the cool regions of Marlborough.
The latest newcomer to my wine-storage area in the basement is the Boho Vineyards 2008 California Old Vine Zinfandel. I punched open the box last night and poured a glass, pleased with the big plum and jam fruit flavors and the easy-to-manage tannins that winemaker David Georges coaxed from the grapes.
Another plus is the typical (at least what I think are typical) alcohol levels (13.7-percent, in this case) that make American zinfandels not only food-friendly but also drinker-friendly.
Both wines are priced at $24 for the three-liter box (the equivalent of four .750-liter bottles), which makes this adventure affordable, as well.