Say Yes to Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is the anti-Chardonnay.

Where Chardonnay is crafted with warm oak barrels and malolactic fermentation, Sauvignon Blanc typically relies on cold stainless steel tanks and no oak aging. While there are exceptions to this rule, most wines fit inside this predictable box, but keep reading for some surprises.

We are diving this week into Sauvignon Blanc from a few great Napa Valley wineries. In an area definitely known for their red wines – especially Cabernet Sauvignon – why would so many wineries want to plant a white varietal like Sauvignon Blanc? In fact, it is widely planted and it is easy to find wineries making very good wine with this white grape.

The answer involves terroir and market. The area is well suited for growing Sauvignon Blanc (and many other varietals). Also this wine doesn’t take as long to move from grape to bottle which means the wine has a faster time to market.

Originating in France, Sauvignon Blanc is actually one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. The other is Cabernet Franc. So maybe having them grown together is not that odd at all.

Great Wines

The origin stories of some of the best brands and products in our lives seem to happen literally by luck, chance, or happy accident. Who would have thought that this amazing winery would start that way, too.

The winery tells the story that winery owner and bank executive Charlie Crocker asked for a meeting with winemaker Pam Starr to talk about buying grapes. After hours-long discussion, the two quickly became partners and the rest is history.

Crocker & Starr is a sustainable winery with an eye towards the old-world techniques but with both feet firmly planted in the new world. Their Sauvignon Blanc vines were planted in 1998 with a release following in 2001. Their winery is a beautiful example of how to build a winery is a replica of the original barn found on the site from the 1870s.

This is a complex wine that breaks the mold of the typical Sauvignon Blanc. This beautiful lemon colored wine rushed forward with aromas of tropical and citrus fruits like lemon, lime, citrus zest, pineapple, papaya, and banana.

The acidity is restrained and is kept in check by the medium alcohol. Flavors of peach, lemon curd, honeysuckle, and pears were present on a very long finish.

Lobster rolls, Goat cheese


If you spend enough time researching and reading about wineries in Napa Valley, you get the sense that there are a few “styles” of these wineries.

There are the flashy mega chateau complexes scattered around the valley. Then you have the wineries that revolve around the winemaker – think of a restaurant and a celebrity chef. You also get the humble wineries making great wine that remember that farming is at the heart of their craft. Gamble Family Vineyards falls into this category.

This family-owned winery was started in 2005 and owns around 175 acres around the Napa Valley area. Tom Gamble is a third generation Napa farmer but the first one to farm grapes. He bought land in the early 1980s, found a winemaker in the early 2000s and built a winery in 2013.

Gamble Family Vineyards is heavily focused on sustainability in their farming and their winemaking. They are very serious about protecting the land for future generations of people and wildlife. Making great wine is about more than just crushing great grapes. All of these efforts come through in the bottle.

This pale lemon wine was filled to the brim with aromas of a fruit salad. There were scents of melon, grapefruit, lemon zest, honeysuckle, and white peaches.

Acidity and alcohol were balanced and only accentuated the intense flavors of bold, tropical fruit with melon balls, spearmint, and banana.

This was a great wine and I could have spent all day drinking this one.

Sitting on a porch

Another winery with a serious dedication to protecting and preserving the land and the environment is Honig. They happen to make some great wines, too. Some of their efforts include, solar power, using sheep to trim the weeds, deploying trained dogs to detect harmful bugs (to lower the need for spraying), and they promote the right wildlife around their farm to reduce invasive pests.

The winemaking at this family-owned winery is top-notch and they focus on just Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine we feature here was fermented each vineyard block separately so only the highest quality wine is included in the blend. This wine was aged for 8 months in a mix of new French oak barrels and new oak puncheons (large oak vessels).

This wine opened with a pale lemon color and aromas of banana, lemon curd, lemon peel, papaya, and candied pineapple. The oak aging in this white wine helped to soften the acidity and increase the body.

The flavors were just as intense as the aromas. The beautifully developed flavors of apricot, nectarine, key lime pie, and mango were a delight in the glass.

This reminded me of something from the Southern Rhone like a Roussanne more than a Sauvignon Blanc, but it will definitely impress.

Grilled salmon

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