There are sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. Case in point, I was rooting around in the cellar the other week looking for what might be up next for tasting when I came across some sauvignon blanc. After organizing everything I had segregated the Napa and Sonoma examples from the rest of the lot, which I quickly noted were "value priced" and on which I reported last week in Value Priced Sauvignon Blanc. Which begs the question, why are producers planting sauvignon blanc in premium wine regions like Napa and Sonoma?
Fortunately for me my brain processes fairly quickly and it wasn’t but a few moments before I remembered that not all of Napanoma is perfect for pinot and cabernet. Producers plant varieties like sauvignon blanc in areas that are best suited to sauvignon blanc, or perhaps just not well suited to other varieties. I realized that this of course is exactly the line I’ve been hammering away at for the past several weeks. Celebrating a bit of diversity in our vineyards.
Of course we might argue that pinot blanc or grüner veltliner is even better suited to some of these sites, but then again we don’t have to sell these wines either. Sauvignon blanc is immensely popular, and relatively easy to produce to the extent that we know what styles work, both in regards to terroir as well as in the marketplace, and what price point one needs to hit to make it work. Of course that doesn’t tell us whether or not these wines are worth their respective tariffs or if in fact they produce something unique and distinctive and worth our attention. From this small sampling the answer would be yes, and no.
Several wines here that stand out as distinctive and unique. The Trione and Rodney Strong both were standouts for me, in somewhat different styles that both seem to celebrate the richness and ripeness that their vineyards can achieve. The Schug, Field Stone, and Hanna were all made in a bit more of a typical style but I found them each appealing and distinctive in their own way. It is interesting to me that in many cases I am surprised by the larger scale producers who do well with sauvignon blanc, but at the same time it is surprising how little I can enjoy some of the most popular brands out there. I’m not sure what to make of this other than at times brand recognition can be a substitute for quality, simple as that.
In some cases here it does not pay to to pony up the extra money for a famous brand or the more famous appellation. You would have been better off searching through my value suggestions and choosing one of the top wines from that list, but many times quality is not necessarily what one is looking for when one buys a bottle of wine. All too often people are looking at big brands as an assurance of quality, and all too often the entry level wines that these big brands offer let people down. Trading on one’s reputation is a sad fact of life, but it’s a fact of life we can avoid with a little due diligence on our part. I’m not saying that my reviews of these wines are definitive, after all they are nothing if not personal opinion. What I am saying though is you the consumer owe it to yourself to do a little research before buying wine. In all likelihood you’ll save yourself some money, increase your odds of enjoying the bottle that you do buy and most importantly you will stop supporting producers who are trading on their reputation. If you’re in the market for some premium Napanoma sauvignon blanc I humbly suggest the following list is a great place to start!
— Gregory Dal Piaz, Snooth