Gary and I drink a lot of Chardonnay, but in the summertime, when temperatures are soaring, and I am in search of a thirst-quenching white wine, I am a sucker for a well-made Sauvignon Blanc. From steely, grassy, sunshine filled options, to slightly more rounded, textured and lush selections, the international variety can please almost any palate.
Though made throughout the world, the grape found it’s home in France, predominantly in Bordeaux and Loire Valley. Though the two regions are relatively close geographically, the options produced are uniquely independent of each other thanks to varying soil types, proximity to regional rivers, sun exposure, etc.
The classic characteristic of Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc, like those from Sancerre and Pouilly Fume, is an earthy, wet stone, smoky minerality in the wine, thanks to Silex or flintstone filled soils. Meld this with cooling winds off the Loire River, the wines lock in freshness and bright acidity, as found in Pascal Jolivet Sancerre ($38) and Ladoucette Pouilly Fumé ($40), melding white flowers with juicy citrus and melon. And, they pair beautifully with Loire’s famous fresh Crottin de Chavignol goats cheese.
Bordeaux selections are often grassier and riper, with soft herbal characteristics, melding with tropical fruits and ripe citrus. Often blended with Semillion and aged in oak, the wines tend to have a textured palate with hints of spice, beeswax, and honey. White Bordeaux wines can cost on the higher end, like the sublime Chateau Haut Brion Blanc Pessac ($750+ depending on the vintage) or favorite Y D’Yquem Bordeaux Blanc ($250+ depending on vintage), layering jasmine, fresh cream, baked apple, and fresh cut grass, many are quite affordable with premium quality, like Chateau Clos Floridene Blanc Graves ($28) or Chateau Latour Martillac Blanc Pessac ($35).
Napa Valley vintners fell in love with Sauvignon Blanc early on. The regions beloved Cabernet Sauvignon is a hybrid of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc, making it only fitting that winemakers across the valley would produce spectacular offerings.
Farming organically, Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc ($48) shines with a sense of place, and great style, highlighting the exceptional terroir of their historic St. Helena estate in every sip. Medium-bodied, yet bright, fresh and lively, the wine shines with lychee, yuzu, and mandarin, finishing with a touch of chalky minerality. With a Bordeaux style, adding a touch of Semillon to their Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Duckhorn ($30) delivers a tropical, grassy wine with passionfruit, mango, and candied pineapple.
Vibrant and luscious, melding layers of tangerine, passion fruit, and lemon pie, Amici Sauvignon Blanc ($25) from fruit grown throughout Napa Valley, delivers summertime in the glass with a fruit-forward, fresh finish. Refined and elegant, yet racy and fresh, Floral Springs Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc ($50) is a consistent favorite vintage after vintage delivering layers of fresh fig, honeydew, lemon blossom, and juicy tart green apple. Blending four clones of Sauvignon Blanc, two that originated in Loire Valley and two from Bordeaux, Gamble Family Sauvignon Blanc ($28) reveals layers of green apple, melon, lemon curd, and honey.
50-year-old Cuvaison ($24) opts for 100% Sauvignon Musque for their Carneros Sauvignon Blanc, as the cooler climate of the region helps highlight the grassy, melon, and gooseberry notes of the variety. Bright, fruit-forward, and beautifully balanced, Cliff Lede Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($25) melds ripe lemon-lime citrus with hints of herbal mint and basil. Jayson by Pahlmeyer Sauvignon Blanc ($30) reveals white peach and stone fruit, fresh pear and fig in their delicate, sophisticated Napa Valley selection. Energetic and lively, Rutherford Ranch Sauvignon Blanc ($16) shines with layers of tropical guava, lilikoi, and ripe mango with crisp texture and vivacity while delivering a punchy, fresh palate perfect for sunset.
From California’s Santa Ynez Valley, Beckman Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($20) leaps from the glass with lively aromas of nectarine, peach, Asian pear, and grapefruit zest.
From one of Napa’s favorite families, the Cakebreads planted Sauvignon Blanc vines on their Rutherford estate shortly after purchasing the property in 1972. Since then the winery has become known for their stellar, stellar Cabernet Sauvignon (like their Dancing Bear Vineyard Cab from Howell Mountain) and luscious Chardonnay from Carneros. Their fresh, lively Sauvignon Blanc ($26) has also, always been a favorite layering pink grapefruit and lemon blossom with a hint of crushed stone minerality.
Balancing crushed stone and herbal notes with ripe citrus, Sonoma’s Dutcher Crossing Sauvignon Blanc ($30) shines, balancing minerality and a round, textured palate thanks to partial fermentation and aging in French oak barrels. Affordable, expressive, and tasty, Dry Creek Vineyards Fume Blanc ($16) is ideal to pair with shellfish like fresh stone crabs, revealing floral notes of honeysuckle, jasmine, soft herbs, and citrus.
The hills of Italy’s Alto Adige and Collio produce more than just Pinot Grigio. The cool climate Sauvignon Blanc wines of Northeast Italy will make any white wine lover’s heart melt. Cantina-Kallerei Terlan Quarz Sauvignon Blanc shines with minerality from the volcanic soils gives an earthy texture to the grapefruit, papaya, and wild herbs with a touch of salty brininess on the finish. Russiz Superiore Sauvignon ($25) from hilly vineyards in the commune of Capriva del Friuli highlights wet stone, green mango, and green apple notes.