For my palate, domestic sauvignon blanc is a hit or miss category of wines, with more than a few misses. On one hand you’ve got the leaner styled wines that can taste like grass and lemon juice, and on the other you’ve got the wines that have been oaked beyond recognition.
But I’m convinced that sauvignon blanc, being such a versatile and food friendly wine, can be made to suit almost any palate. The challenge is finding the ones that fit your tastes. At a recent tasting of American white wines, I tasted four domestic sauvignon blancs, two from California and two from Virginia. The range of styles was incredible, and each wine offered a distinct interpretation of the sauvignon blanc grape.
2011 Glen Manor Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc (Virginia, Shenandoah Valley)
This is one heck of an extreme sauvignon blanc. Pungent aromas of lemon, grapefruit rind, sage and freshly cut grass. The wine is so pungent it almost smells like a bitter green salad. My girlfriend said it smells like “a cat peeing on grass,” while my friend J described it as smelling like “bleu cheese under a Frenchman’s armpit in August.” Both are good descriptors. The palate is too sweet for my taste, bursting with lime and sweet tarts. The grass and onion flavors are too pungent and powerful. This wine just ain’t my cup of sauvignon blanc. 71 points
2011 Linden Sauvignon Blanc Avenius (Virginia, Northern Region)
Linden is one of the few Virginia wineries that almost always puts out solid and interesting wines. This sauvignon blanc beat the hell out of the 2011 Glen Manor. The nose has a seltzer-like sense of freshness, with lime, orange, honeysuckle and sage. The palate is light and tangy, with a burst of gooseberry, melon and lime. Minerals and hints of green onion accent the fruit flavors. Very balanced and clearly well-made. Maybe sauvignon blanc has potential in Virginia? 87 points
2010 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc (California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley)
I brought a few bottles of this wine back from a trip to Sonoma in March. When I tasted it at the winery, I was floored by its complexity, balance and depth. Among the many domestic sauvignon blancs I’ve tasted, this is by far the best, and it’s way up there on the list of my favorite sauvignon blancs from anywhere in the world. So I wanted to share a bottle with my good wine friends and see what they thought.
Heavenly aromas of grass, jalapeno, white peach and green apple. The aromas opened up with time and air, showing all sorts of nuance. Most of the tasters were a bit skeptical of this wine, thinking it would be too oaked or bold, but the acid in this wine is so attractive that it won a lot of fans. The melon and lime fruit is pure and plush, laced with herbs and cut chives. The finish is long and seamless. On day 2 the wine opened up even more, showing papaya and tangerine, but it’s equally matched with lime-like acidity. So fresh and beautiful. 93 points
2010 Cowan Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Isa (California, Lake County)
The skin contact is evident in the wine’s pretty apricot color. The aromas are fun and wild: apricot, pineapple, white flowers and an aroma that reminds me of good bourbon. The palate is dense and creamy, but the acid keeps it fresh and lip-smacking. Flavors of quince, honey, wax and peanut shell. This wine reminds me of some wines from the Jura region of France, with its high acid, nutty and slightly oxidized aspect. This is really fun stuff, and I give it serious points for creativity.
So there you have it: four different sauvignon blancs, four different takes.
What’s your favorite American sauvignon blanc?