I don’t know too many people who get excited by California sauvignon blanc. Sancerre, has huge international appeal and New Zealand sauvignon blancs have a big following, but in California, it is still often viewed as no more than an alternative to chardonnay.
Part of the reason for this is that sauvignon blanc can grow in different climates, so it is grown all over the state, but no one area has really made it their own. This said, I am encouraged by what I see happening in Mendocino County. As a whole, the region is worth paying attention to as in every category the wines continue to improve.
In a sense, Mendocino is a microcosm of California’s wine regions. There is the cool, foggy Anderson Valley that is known for pinot noir and sparkling wines. Redwood Valley is warm enough for zinfandel, McDowell Valley for Rhone varietals, Potter Valley for a variety of white wines and Yorkville Heights for cabernet sauvignon. And yet, the one grape nearly every area seems to grow is sauvignon blanc. In the warmer spots, it rarely has a tutti-fruity, candied quality that can sometimes seem cloying. In cold areas, sauvignon blanc can take on vegetal characteristics, but I have yet to taste one from Mendocino that reminded me of asparagus or green peppers.
Sauvignon blanc has been grown in parts of Mendocino for a while, but now I’m really impressed and I think that as the region evolves, there is the potential to also see more pronounced differences in the terroirs from the various appellations. For wine drinkers everywhere, it is worth noting; sauvignon blanc in Mendocino County has a bright future.
McFadden Sauvignon Blanc, 2009: Guinness McFadden has been organically farming in the Potter Valley since 1970, way before it was on anyone’s radar. After years of selling their grapes to other wineries, the family started making wine in 2003. Today, McFadden produces a number of superb white wines including this sauvignon blanc, a vivacious blend of melon, citrus and peach fruit. Suggested retail: $16
Elizabeth Spencer Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino, Label Certified Organic, 2010: Elizabeth Spencer is located in Rutherford, but makes several wines from Hopland and Ukiah. With effusive aromatics of lemon grass, pineapple and mango, and light-but-pronounced peach, pink grapefruit and tropical fruit on the palate, this is a wonderfully expressive wine that puts the accent on fruit without sacrificing balance. Suggested retail: $20
Bink Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Randall Hill Vineyard, 2010: Bink’s wines have steadily improved since releasing its first wines in 2005. Made from a sustainable vineyard in the Yorkville Highlands, this an aromatic gem brimming over with ripe peaches and mango with mineral undertones and a lively, long finish. Suggested retail: $22
Pamela S. Busch is the owner of Skrewcap.com, founder of CAV Wine Bar and a Bay Area wine consultant. Please submit your questions to Pamela@Skrewcap.com.