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Executive editor Thomas Matthews joined Wine Spectator in 1988. His tasting beat is Spain.
Thomas Matthews

An Explosive Sauvignon Blanc

Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley 2007

Thomas Matthews
Posted: February 12, 2009

Last week, in the midst of a swirling snowstorm, I met some friends for dinner at Eighty-One, a relatively new restaurant on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The chef is Ed Brown, who formerly cooked at Sea Grill in Rockefeller Center; the wine director is Heather Branch, who trained under Raj Parr and Larry Stone in San Francisco. It's a dynamite team and a delightful room.

Brown specialized in seafood at the Sea Grill, naturally, and we all ordered fish for our first courses. So I was perusing Branch's savvy, eclectic wine list for a white, and the Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley 2007 ($75) caught my eye. I remembered a recent blog by James Laube, where he called the wine "probably the greatest Sauvignon Blanc I've ever had from anywhere." So I had to try it.

The wine's aromas exploded from the glass, even with just the tasting pour—tangerine, honeysuckle, spices, honey. It was full-bodied, yet vibrant acidity kept it lively and focused. The bold flavors ranged from tart, juicy citrus to ripe, tropical fruit to sweet oak. I rated it 93 points, non-blind.

It was irresistible on its own, but perhaps a bit too expressive for some of the dishes; while it cozied up to sweet grilled scallops, it clashed with the heat in chorizo and piquillo peppers that stuffed sautéed calamari.

I love Sauvignon Blanc, but generally lean toward the more austere, minerally style from Sancerre. The Merry Edwards showed plenty of complexity, but at a rock-and-roll volume. Not surprising, I guess, in a wine made from the aromatic Musqué clone, barrel-fermented and heavily bâtonnaged (stirred on the lees). It's an impressive effort, and evidence of the character this grape can show in the hands of a skilled winemaker.

See the Feb. 11, 2009, Insider for the official review: Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley 2007

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