The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2012

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Page 118 of 132

VARIETALS Style Parade I f you've got it, flaunt it and when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County winegrowers have reason to strut their stuff. With the 2011 vintage, producers reached a high-water mark in their efforts to develop Sauvignon Blanc as a signature varietal. Expressive, pitch-perfect fruit allowed winemakers to showcase their understanding of high-elevation white winegrowing and marry it with a broad range of winemaking styles. In 2011, flavors were dialed in by a cool spring that held yields down by 30 percent, but thanks to a picking window stretched out by one of the region's latest harvests, the vintage was characterized as being riper than in preceding years. Pristine fruit resulted in elevated wine quality with notes of white peach and stone fruit adding complexity to many of the mineral and citrus-driven flavor profiles found here. Style becomes one of the key differentiators when overall wine quality peaks across a growing region. Winemaking techniques favored by various Lake County producers include the use of multiple yeast strains for building complexity, extended lees aging for texture and varying percentages of new French oak. During a recent blind tasting of fifteen 2011 Sauvignon Blancs, we found something to please everyone—with the majority of wines retailing under the $20 mark. Bell Cellars Sauvignon Blanc ($22) Almost creamy aromas with notes of peach and lemon custard, fully structured mid-palate with subtle stone fruit finish. Briceland Sauvignon Blanc ($16) Shows lychee and white peach aromas with rich, mineral- driven flavors and a broad finish of yellow peach. Chacewater Sauvignon Blanc ($14.99) Crisp, herbal aromas, a hint of petrol and intense gooseberry flavors make for a New World style that gains character from time on the lees. Gregory Graham Sauvignon Blanc ($16) Delicate Asian pear and white fruit aromas intensify on a silky mid-palate that has added texture from whole-cluster pressing and a lifted, citrus finish. Guenoc Sauvignon Blanc ($16) Exuberant floral and tropical fruit aromas with broad, bright flavors of peach and citrus. 118 / the tasting panel / september 2012 THE 2011 LAKE COUNTY SAUVIGNON BLANCS STEP HIGH by Deborah Parker Wong / photos by Casey Carney Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc ($10) Aromas of citrus and a touch of jalapeño with layers of light, tropi- cal fruit flavors and fuller Semillon-like weight on the palate. Robledo Family Sauvignon Blanc ($22) Quite ripe with complex, attractive aromas of stone fruit, citrus and garrigue; fuller-bodied with similar flavors on the palate. Rock Wall Sauvignon Blanc ($18) Bright stone fruit cobbler aromas with lighter, Chenin Blanc– like peach and orange flavors that carry through the finish. Shannon Ridge Sauvignon Blanc ($18.99) Melon- and citrus-driven aromas with greener melon and honeydew flavors through a clean finish. Shed Horn Cellars Sauvignon Blanc ($15) Savory, mineral-infused citrus aromas with complex Meyer lemon and gunflint flavors creating a distinct fumé-like style. Shooting Star Sauvignon Blanc ($12) Three different yeasts are used to achieve intense floral and citrus zest aromas and clean, balanced fla- vors that burst on the mid palate. Six Sigma Sauvignon Blanc ($16) Citrus and delicate tropical fruit aromas with orange and stone fruit flavors and a fuller body from the addition of 20 percent new oak. Vigilance Sauvignon Blanc ($19.99) Aromas of honeydew and pear with underlying grassier notes and clean melon and citrus flavors. Wildhurst Sauvignon Blanc ($14) Subtle notes of orange flower and stone pave the way for a crisp wave of stone fruit on the finish.

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