Have fun experimenting with Sauvignon Blancs

August 12, 2023

If it goes with lemon, it goes with Sauvignon Blanc, so you can try using SB in place of lemon in many seafood recipes. It adds nuance, and most are also good for kitchen quaffing. About 90% of New Zealand SB comes from Marlborough. However, there are several types of terroir, providing many variations. Kim Crawford is easy to find. The 2022 rates 87 McD under $17, and has tropical bouquet of pineapple, passionfruit and lime, slightly herbal and grassy on opening. It blows off. Vibrant acidity and a balancing smidge of residual sugar support continuation of aromas though a clean finish. Lobster Reef SB 2022, $15, nice name! Those who love bell pepper may like this. Cloudy Bay SB 2021 is top shelf, 92 McD. Shop carefully; I’ve seen prices ranging $26-$40. The 2022, 91 McD under $28, is a worthy buy. Opens to grapefruit, lime, lemongrass and passionfruit. Tropical fruit evolves through the palate to a long, clean, dry, saline-minerally finish with trop fruit and citrus reverberations. This is a better buy than their vaunted Te Koko label, apart from the 2019. The recent vintage 2021, 90 McD at $75, and the 92-point 2020 are lovely, but triple the price is a bit much for me. If the three are available and you can afford them, it would be instructive to gather your tasting panel and evaluate them together. Be sure they are poured at the same temperature and into similar stemware. Recommended 45-55 degrees F; I like to start at 48. Cooler temperatures prevent aromatics from developing properly. Properly shaped stemware is important. For large groups, if you don’t have sufficient inventory, don’t worry; just make sure each set per person is the same size and shape. Same glass works, but with aromatic wine, there can be aroma carryover. Mask the labels. Provide a control glass to observe the wine’s growth as temperature rises. Tasting neophytes are usually quite surprised at the improvement in well-made SB as temps approach 55 degrees. 

The Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley Sonoma 2019, 92 McD under $60, or the 2020, 90 McD under $50, are favorably priced. However, look for Trione River Road Ranch RRV Sonoma 2020, 90 McD plus 2 price points under $24. The Illumination SB label says North Coast. Grapes were sourced from both coastal Napa and Sonoma. The 2021 gets 92 McD under $40. Straw colored, it opens to tropical fruit supported with lemon zest, vanilla and faint bell pepper. Somehow this moves to tree fruits, apricot and peach, with coconut and grassy notes. Full bodied, creamy, supported by bright acidity. Although Illumination is definitely SB, it has several characteristics of a well-crafted N. Coast Chard. One of the few I’ve recently tasted that supports asparagus and artichokes, also great with sea bass. Switch gears to bright acidity by buying Cakebread Cellars Napa SB N. Coast, 89 McD under $30. Aromas of grapefruit, honeysuckle and lemon yogurt move to tropical fruits, melon and wet river gravel mineral flavors. Dry and bright acidity. I have a bit of a problem with Napa SB. The value of Chardonnay and especially Cabernet Sauvignon limits the availability of well-made, affordable SB. Screaming Eagle Oakville 2017, rated 98 by most, comes in at $5,400 and the 2019 at $3,700. No to both; it’s just contrived scarcity value. I wrote of Lail Vineyards Georgia SB 2019 recently, 95 McD. Recent price $151, worth every penny. Three times the satisfaction compared to Lail Blueprint SB 2020, 92 McD at $50? Maybe not!

Cases regarding interstate direct wine shipping are working their way through the court system. More than 45 states allow some interstate direct wine shipping, but only 11 allow spirits; Delaware allows neither. A recent online article by W. Blake Gray for addresses the issues; find it by searching Obscure US Commission Puts All Wine Shipping in Peril. Form your opinion, then contact your state government reps.

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