by Fred McMillin
for December 8, 1997

A Bargain Blanc

Prologue:

  • The best bang for your buck...includes the Meridian Sauvignon Blanc at $8.50.

    ...by Peter Kay in "Smart Wine"

  • The grassy flavors of Sauvignon Blanc have all but disappeared from....California's top brands. Some winemakers cover excessive herbal flavors with barrel fermentation, but the biggest trend is to make changes in the vineyard to grow riper grapes by increasing sun exposure.

    ...by Harvey Steiman in "The Wine Spectator"

The Rest of the Story: Meridian's savvy winemaker Chuck Ortman uses all of the above to make his Best Buy blanc.

The Vineyard: Vines are now being planted in north-to-south rows on a south-facing slope in the sunny Santa Barbara district. Thus, one side of the bunch sees sun in the morning, the other side in the afternoon. Furthermore, leaves are removed several times during the growing season to avoid excess shading of the fruit.

The Winery: If a trace of grassiness is still in the grapes, it won't be detectable after Chuck ferments and ages most of the wine in small French oak barrels.

So, after all this work, how good is the wine? Well, my 18 panelists agreed with Peter Kay that the Meridian Sauvignon Blanc is a fine value. Not only that, they voted it the BEST WHITE OF THE TASTING. Very seldom does a wine under $10 win such acclaim. For example, the price of the five previous winning whites averaged $21.60. But a number of Blancs are now selling above $15, so I'm grabbing Ortman's while it's still $8.50.

The Wine:
1996 California Sauvignon Blanc
Meridian Vineyards, Paso Robles, CA
Contact—Tor Kenward, (707) 963-7115
Food Affinities—Fish and fowl with herbed sauces
Price—$8.50

Postscript: While his Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc draw plenty of kudos, Chuck Ortman does not live by white wines alone. His 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon won a first at the California State Fair.


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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