by Fred McMillin
for December 23, 1997

An Affordable White for the Holidays

Prologue: "Some of the finest, best structured, aromatically appealing, and delicious wines produced in California have come from the Sauvignon Blanc variety."

...Steve Pitcher, Vintners Club, San Francisco

The Rest of the Story: For the first time this year we had WHITE WINE UNDER $10 win Best of Tasting. Perhaps it should not have been such a shock., since the "Wine Spectator" had given it Best Buy accolades, saying, "Richly textured, with lemon-lime and crisp apple flavors. Finishes with notes of hazelnut, toast and orange essence."

The Trick:

You don't win Best of Tasting with a grassy, vegetable Blanc. How did the winery avoid it? First, they grew the grapes at the northern end of the narrow, 20-mile valley. The southern end is too cool to avoid the veggie flavors. Next, Ed pressed the thoroughly-ripened grapes very gently, to avoid coarse stem and seed flavors. Last, he added a touch of vanilla-toast elegance with older French oak, rather than the more aggressive new oak. The result is an excellent, affordable wine you can serve with confidence during the holidays...a fine companion for fowl, fish or ham.

The Wine:
1996 Sauvignon Blanc, Alexander Valley,. Sonoma County
Chateau Souverain
Winemaker—Ed Killian
Contact—Robert Larsen, (707) 433-8281
Price—$8.50 (love it!)

Postscript: Sauvignon Blanc has been around a while. Roman legions saw its precursor in the Loire Valley two millenia ago. Black-robed Benedictine monks completed the isolation and development of the variety there a few centuries after the Roman Empire collapsed.


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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