Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc Born Of Terroir

It is the time of year when people turn their attention to the lighter, whiter wines that refresh and replenish, after a winter of hearty reds to warm the insides and pair with the meaty, soul-filling dishes of the winter season. For me, though, it's always white wine weather - I drink mine at room temperature, the better to savor the aromas and flavors which are sometimes softened by a chill. I also like mine with more than seafood, as the higher acidity levels found in many whites makes for a perfect match with meat.

The classic white wine for warmer weather - pardon me, Chardonnay fan - is Sauvignon Blanc. The grape so good it is grown all over France, instead of in just one corner, really shines when the season turns to flowers and showers and men swinging bats at hurled projectiles.

Sauvignon Blanc is a popular grape in California, too. It finds great purchase in the soil of Napa Valley, soil which also accommodates several other grapes that hail from Bordeaux. Winegrowers say that it's the dirt that makes or breaks a grape, but the weather figures in prominently when determining that nebulous quality known as terroir.

Commenting on the generous 2012 vintage in Napa Valley, Cornerstone managing partner Craig Camp says, "The warm, but not hot, weather in 2012 gave us a long, even season that let the flavors develop at an even pace producing a Sauvignon Blanc with classic structure and minerality combined with a generous character that speaks so clearly of Napa Valley terroir."

What winemaking tricks did they employ to get the wine so rich and full? "None," says Camp. "In Bordeaux they add Sémillon to add richness, but in the Napa Valley we can achieve that depth with the Sauvignon Blanc variety alone letting the pure essence of this noble variety shine. As always, there is no new oak used with our Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc White Label to blunt it's natural, beautiful vivacious personality."

Alcohol sits at a Napa-proper 14.1% abv. Picking the grapes earlier for a now-stylish lower alcohol content is not how Cornerstone rolls. In a Twitter exchange with Camp, he states his belief that, “Making a 13% alc. #wine in a 14% terroir is not good winemaking. You're just denying #terroir.” So lower alcohol should not be a result of simply harvesting earlier? “You can't make good wine from underripe grapes. If you want low alcohol you have to pick the right vineyard.”

This Sauvignon Blanc retails for $30, placing it on a high plateau for the variety. The experience is worth the expenditure.

The Cornerstone Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc White Label 2012 puts fruit first, with delicious aromas of apples, cantaloupes and guava emanating from the glass. There is a whiff of minerals, but it's downplayed to favor the ripe, fruity nose. On the palate, expect to find plenty of melon and tropical fruit abetted by a bit stronger play for the citrus zest and minerals. It drinks with a full mouthfeel, yet as clean as can be. It’s rich, without leaning on oak. It is aged in French oak barrels for only five months, with the spent yeast cells stirred every now and then to create that rich and creamy mouthfeel.

Cornerstone suggests seafood - particularly shellfish - as a pairing, but don't overlook weightier dishes. The wine's acidity makes it a delight with turkey or chicken sausages, particularly ones that have a touch of spice in the recipe. It kills with Asian cuisine.