what am i tasting?


Tasting Note

Posted September 20, 2012 Expressive and aromatic, with honeysuckle, ripe peach and nectarine notes that are ripe, lush and elegant, with a long finish and plenty of juicy details.

And the answer is...


Varietal:

This expressive white sounds like a great complement to an alfresco dinner on a warm evening; its juicy character would match well with lighter fare.

Viognier is a good place to start since it produces the weightiest wines on our list. While the grape can exhibit floral and peach notes, its tendency is to make spicy, full-bodied wines, so we can move on.

Gewürztraminer isn’t a good match for our wine either. It’s a cool-climate variety with high natural acidity, but our note doesn’t include the grape’s signature lychee and spice notes and rose petal aromas.

Pinot Gris can be made in many different styles from the generous and sometimes sweet versions found in France’s Alsace region to the middle-of-the-road style common in Oregon. However, we would expect a dry Pinot Gris to be lighter-bodied than our wine, and lush isn’t a term often associated with the grape.

Grüner Veltliner’s high acidity makes it food friendly, but its distinctive flavors of white pepper, tobacco, lentil and citrus don’t match our note.

This leaves Sauvignon Blanc, a versatile grape that is grown in many parts of the world. Sauvignon Blanc produces aromatic wines with refreshing acidity and bright fruit flavors, often accented by floral, herb or grass notes. This sounds like our wine.

This is a Sauvignon Blanc.

Country:

Sauvignon Blanc is grown, to some extent, in all of the countries on our list. To narrow our options, we should focus on the lush, floral style of our wine and the regions where the grape has a strong presence. With that in mind, we can eliminate Oregon, since producers there focus largely on other white varieties. Sauvignon Blanc accounts for a small percentage of the total white grapes planted in Argentina and Austria, and Sauvignon Blanc from those countries tends to be crisper than our wine.

This leaves California and New Zealand as our best options. New Zealand built its reputation on Sauvignon Blanc, and the country’s wines are distinctive for their crisp acidity, forward fruit character and aromatic profiles. The region’s vintners typically don’t use any oak in their Sauvignon Blanc, giving the wines an intense, racy character. California Sauvignon Blancs, on the other hand, tend to be lush in style, with rounder, fleshier textures and bright flavors. This is more in line with our wine.

This Sauvignon Blanc is from California.

Age:

Sauvignon Blanc is usually best enjoyed in its youth, when its fruit flavors are the most vibrant and fresh. While it can benefit from short-term cellaring, especially when it sees some time in oak barrels, it’s typically bottled and released early. This means we can eliminate the older age ranges.

Because our wine is described as juicy and expressive we can safely assume it’s a younger wine, so we should focus on new releases from California. There are a few early-release Sauvignon Blancs from the 2011 vintage hitting the market, but the growing season was cool, meaning that we would expect the wines to be crisper in character. 2010 started cool but then saw periodic heat spikes in August. The cool temperatures meant longer hang time for the grapes, which usually results in more intense flavors. This matches our wine's expressive character.

This wine is from the 2010 vintage, making it two years old.

Appellation:

Since we know our wine is from California, we can eliminate all of the options except for Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara and Anderson Valley.

Anderson Valley is a relatively cool growing region located in Mendocino County. While the summers can be hot, the region is frequented by fog in the mornings and sea breezes in the afternoon. It’s predominately known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc is planted there. However, we would expect our wine’s acidity to be more pronounced if it were from Anderson Valley.

We are left with Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, which was officially recognized as an American Viticultural Area in 2009 and is one of the smallest appellations in California. It’s a warm region located on the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley and features mixed soils that are high in minerals but low in nutrients. While relatively young, the region is becoming a hot spot for Sauvignon Blanc.

This Sauvignon Blanc is from Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara.

Wine:

This is the Vogelzang Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara Birdsong Vogelzang Vineyard 2010, which was rated 91 points in the Aug. 31 issue of Wine Spectator. The wine retails for $20 and 600 cases were made. For more information on California Sauvignon Blanc, read MaryAnn Worobiec’s tasting report in the Aug. 31 issue.

Augustus Weed, associate tasting coordinator

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