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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sauvignon Blanc -- Sonoma's Best Deal

Sauvignon Blanc is a distant second place to Chardonnay in white wine sales.  
Sauv Blanc is usually less expensive than Chardonnay.  
Sauv Blanc grows really well in Sonoma County.

There are 16,000 acres of Chardonnay planted in Sonoma County. That's about 25 square miles of Chardonnay!  Sauvignon Blanc has about 2,500 acres. In Napa County there are 6,500 acres of Chard and 2,000 of Sauv Blanc. 

You can generally get higher yields from Sauvignon Blanc than just about any other premium grape variety. (That is, more tons of grapes per acre of land). It's usually fermented in stainless steel and after a very few months goes directly to the bottle. The high yields and the lack of expensive oak barrels helps keep the price down.

Sonoma County seems to put out consistently good Sauvignon Blanc at reasonable prices. You'd think more people would drink it. Why not?
Best of Class winner
at last year's Sonoma
County Harvest Fair
Image from

Sauv Blanc never quite caught on like Chardonnay. Even Mondavi, the father of modern California wine, renamed his to Fume Blanc. About 25 years ago New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs caught on, but America still lags in consumption.

Styles can be pungent to sour to clean and refreshing. NZ Sauv Blancs are sometimes described with terms such as cat pee and gooseberry. I know I don't want cat pee in my wine and I have no idea what a gooseberry is. 

One of the first local wineries to hit it big with Sauv Blanc was Kenwood Vineyards. Their basic Sonoma County SB can be found for less than ten bucks and it's quite nice. In this price range Geyser Peak and Dry Creek Vineyards are also great values. Other folks, such as Merry Edwards and Hanna Wineries, put out consistently top-notch Sauvignon Blanc year-after-year. There are lots of good ones for under $20.

Most Sonoma County Sauvignon Blancs can be described as something like, "clean, refreshing, grapefruity, lemony, grassy." Great for a warm summer day. Nice with many lighter meals. And one of the few wines (along with many sparkling wines) that will stand up to a salad course.

I call it the IPA of wines--clean and refreshing. If you're a beer geek you'll understand.

Instead of a heavy, expensive Chardonnay try a lighter, more refreshing, less expensive Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc next time.