Superior and Distinctively Stylish Sauvignon Blanc

You're sure to find something to love from this versatile grape
2 Superior and Distinctively Stylish Sauvignon Blancs
Rombauer Vineyards

It is no surprise that different parts of the world boast different styles of the same varietal, and sauvignon blanc is no exception. Terroir, culture, root stock, weather, altitude, and winemaking practices, among a host of factors, all contribute to the final product.

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And while all sauvignon blancs are high in acid and fruit-forward, they can taste quite different from one another. New Zealand sauvignon blancs, for example, tend to tilt towards passion fruit and bright grapefruit notes, while the U.S. leans more towards citrus and white stone fruits. Add barrel-aging, and the normally light-bodied wine acquires more heft and a creamier feel on the palate.

The following wines typify two very distinctive styles from the Napa Valley in California; if you don’t like one style, do try the other. You are sure to find something to love among wines made from this versatile grape.

Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($24). Especially well-known for its classic, expressive California chardonnays, Rombauer Vineyards introduced its second white, a sunny sauvignon blanc, in 2014. I reviewed that wine in these pages back in 2016, and I’m delighted to report that the 2017 iteration (just the fourth released), is just as deserving of praise as the first. An excellent value, this vintage, like its predecessor, marries tropical fruit with sassy citrus notes of lime, grapefruit, and Meyer lemon, then offers interesting herb and fresh cut grass in the finish. It is a very cheerful wine.

Not surprisingly from a family that includes Irma Rombauer, the author of “The Joy of Cooking,” this wine is extremely food-friendly, and would complement a wide array of fish and seafood dishes, as well as your Thanksgiving turkey. A pretty, green-inflected yellow in the glass, it has a lightly creamy mouthfeel, a crisp finish and enough heft (10 percent of the grapes are aged in oak) to drink solo, as well.

Rombauer lost its beloved founder, Koerner Rombauer, earlier this year. This sauvignon blanc, released this year, is a real tribute to Rombauer’s passion, skill, and willingness to expand and improve his brand; a remarkable and generous wine from a remarkable and generous man.

Animo Heritage Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($65). This offering from Michael Mondavi is completely different in style from the Rombauer reviewed above: This wine is lush with fruit, notably pear, stone fruit and soft Meyer lemon on the palate with some minerality, grass, and oak cutting through the richness towards the finish. Less sprightly than the Rombauer, it strikes me as a bit less food-friendly, but is absolutely delicious on its own.

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The vine cuttings for this wine can trace their lineage back to the late 1880s here in the United States, and from France’s storied Château d’Yquem before that. Planted in Napa Valley’s Atlas Peak AVA, the vines yield just six barrels per year from their 1.25-acre plot. This is a complex, beautifully-made wine, worth its hefty price tag if your palate leans more towards creamy oak and ripe fruit than crisp and refreshing citrus profiles. California isn’t the only state crafting delicious and interesting sauvignon blanc. Idaho, Illinois, and Virginia are just a few of the states that we bet you didn’t know made wine.