A Great Wine Can Still Be A Great Value

I find myself, every day, becoming more and more anamoured with Sauvignon Blanc. And this goes for well aged Sauvignon Blanc too (let’s not get carried away: well aged usually means 6-10 years old)

I was surprised to learn that of all the mainstream varietals, Sauvignon Blanc is one of the few that has never attained a perfect score from Robert Parker. I can’t speculate why this would be other than, simply, he’s never tasted a perfect example. I don’t know why this is, but I do find it unusual.

The beauty of this grape is its versatility and the way it responds so dramatically to different climates. Rochioli’s beautiful tropical accented Sauvignon Blanc, compared with with the rich magnificence of the Mondavi To-Kalon I Block, compared with the hayfield aromas you find in the Dry Creek Fume Blanc compared with the gooseberryish and lean New Zealand examples. There’s a lot to choose from here.

The versatility of this grape is made even clearer when yo consider that unlike so many other varieties, Sauvignon Blanc has found no real home in the United States. Cabernet has Napa, four or five regions are associated with stellar Pinot Noir, Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley is often spoken of, Chardonnay and Carneros are closely linked, while Gewurztraminer and Riesling seem to be the rising starts in Anderson Valley.

Yet Sauvignon Blanc really doesn’t have a home that everyone agrees is it’s natural location in California.  It seemed in the mid 1990s that Sauvignon Blanc and Dry Creek Valley would find a favored association, but that movement and the interest behind it appears to have puttered out.

Of course, this is actually a good thing for wine lovers. The best American Sauvignon Blanc remains one of the best deals in wine. It is hard to find great SB above $25 a bottle, while it can often be had for under $20.

Among the better Sauvignon Blancs under $25 a bottle are:

Flora Springs Soliloquey
Rochioli Vineyards
Chateau St. Jean Fume Blanc "La Petite Etoile
Honig Vineyards
Matanzas Creek Winery
Chalk Hill Estate
Mason Cellars

Aged Sauvignon Blanc is something few people delve into. Yet if the wine starts its life with good acid and the kind of rich, sweet citrus and tropical flavors that come from perfectly ripe, yet not over ripe Sauvignon Blanc then the wait is worth it. At ten to fifteen years of age Sauvignon Blanc can take on a much more creamier quality than you find it younger bottles. The citrus mellows but tends to stay in the bottle to offset the burnt orange and caramel I associate with well age versions.

The problem is that it is very difficult to find older Sauvignon Blanc. Rarely can it be found in retail shelves. and only occasionally does one find it at auctions. Your best bet is to buy and be patient.

The message is this: great American Sauvignon Blanc is still relatively inexpensive. "Relatively Inexpensive" and "great American wine" are two phrases one rarely finds in the same sentence these days.

5 Responses

  1. Fredric Koeppel - April 4, 2006

    Hey, Tom, do you mind if I add a few suggestions to your list?
    Gainey Limited Selection ($20)
    St. Supery ($18)
    X Winery “ES” ($18)
    Grgich Hills Fume Blanc ($24)
    Joseph Phelps ($24)

  2. tom - April 4, 2006

    The values in SB are definitely out there, aren’t they! I’m not familiar with the X Winery, but I’ve seen quite a bit from this label in the stores. It is now on my list.
    I’m preparing to open up two SBs that I’m really excited about:
    1996 Mondavi To-Kalon I-Block
    1996 Rochioli Reserve SB.
    This should be interesting.

  3. jens at cincinnati wine warehouse - April 4, 2006

    Also, try the 1996 Kalin Cellars Reserve. I believe that is their current release. Priced in Ohio at $26. I have one case left. And yes it is one of the best white wines I have tasted.

  4. melvin chua - January 17, 2007

    Heard about your wine but i had not taste it yet can l purchase from you or who your agent in singapore pls furnish i would to have both Red N White wine What your price

  5. Raffi - April 16, 2010

    Don’t know how often you check your old posts, but I was curious about aged sauvignon blanc, and I found your blog here. Not to long ago Beckmen Vineyards in SB, CA…was offering a 1998 Sauvignon Blanc as part of their wineclub library wines. For $12 I thought it was worth a shot, I haven’t opened it yet, but I’m thinking about doing it this weekend. They’re not really infamous for this varietal, nor do they grow it anymore, but your blog got me curious to try it sooner than later.

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