Discovering a forgotten jewel is always reason for high expectations, as most of the wine in my rack never gets the chance to show its age. This one does and, while fascinating, it has gone past its prime.
Firestone Vineyards was Santa Barbara County’s first estate winery, established in the early 1970s on land purchased by tire magnate Harvey Firestone.
This 100% Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc wine is made from Firestone Estate grapes, from the Santa Ynez Valley. The 13.5% abv number is quite reasonable, especially from an area where higher numbers seem to be the rule. It sells online for less than $10.
The wine has a very rich appearance. It is so deeply tinted that it looks like apple juice. I might normally expect some oak with a white wine this golden, but the wine was produced entirely in stainless steel tanks, aging there for eight months. Obviously, bottle aging has been going on a little longer than I had planned.
Winemaker Paul Warson says it is crafted to be fruit-forward and crisp, which I know it is when opened promptly. That's not the case now.
This wine's nose of tropical fruit is smothered by a pungent smokiness, even a hint of whiskey in the glass. On the palate, more extreme smokiness mixes with full acidity. The wine has obviously undergone an extreme change over the years, and it's one I find quite interesting. I am a big fan of smoky aromas and flavors in wine, and all foods in general.
Is it a good change? Sauvignon Blanc - particularly California styles - are generally designed to be drunk young, within a couple of years. Four years isn't exactly a stretch for aging a wine, but for this steel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc it appears to be too long.
The acidity is still strong, but the wine doesn't have the freshness it once did. It can probably be written off to oxidation, even though it was bottled under a screwcap. So, it looks like I let this one linger too long in the wine rack. The aromas and flavors are definitely off, but the transformation it has undergone is amazing, from an educational standpoint.
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