As you enter Napa Valley from the south, you are in Carneros, driving on the highway that runs right through the old Stewart Dairy property. To your left on the hill, are the famous “Oreo” cows munching grass, and to your right are the 18-year-old Sauvignon Blanc vines that are frankly becoming pretty famous. All those variables—wind, restrictive soil, clone, temperature, as well as the unknowns—have an effect on the grapes, resulting in wines with tropical, mineral, and elusive notes most reminiscent of France’s Loire Valley.
Growers Jim Fore and Doug Hill planted the vineyard for me, and it produced its first crop in 1999. I have worked with it ever since. Although of course there is vintage variation, every year has delivered a delicious wine, always a testament for me of the right grape variety growing in the right area.
We were rewarded with another outstanding vintage in 2016. Sunshine and a warm dry spring led to mild and ideal growing conditions throughout the summer. Unlike 2015, there was ample rainfall prior to the growing season, and the vines began their growing season a little happier and less stressed! With no weather extremes to interfere, grapes ripened slowly and evenly. Once again, however, the Sauvignon Blanc crop was light, and resulted in the earliest harvest ever for us—August 23—as well as beautiful concentration in the wine.
Our winemaking strategy has remained consistent for quite a few years now. Grapes arrive early in the day and proceed directly to the press without any crushing. The resulting juice ferments at a cool temperature in stainless steel for two to three weeks. We select a yeast strain known to accentuate aromatics, freshness, and fruitiness. After fermentation the majority of the wine remains in stainless steel, while the remainder ages sur-lie in older cooperage. That sur-lie aged component seems to provide just the right amount of texture to the wine.
Our 2016 Sauvignon is definitely one of my favorites of recent years. Its inviting pale straw color leads to a spectrum of exotic aromas: mango, peach, lemongrass, basil, and a hint of white pepper. The wine dances on the palate with lively, bright, appropriate acidity, and flavors move more toward peach and melon notes as the wine finishes. The wine is simply delicious, and is sure to evoke many smiles.
It is such a pleasure to serve this wine to others. The refrain we hear over and over again –this is not your typical Sauvignon Blanc!