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Overachieving Sauvignon Blanc and Extraordinary Cabernet
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Feb 13, 2018
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Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County 60% -Napa County 40%, 2016 ($38):  “How high can you score a Sauvignon Blanc?,” my fellow taster and I mused.  Can a mere Sauvignon Blanc attain scores worthy of white Burgundy, for example?  Philosophical discussions of quality and scoring aside, we acknowledged that we are not accustomed to finding Sauvignon Blanc wines from California that even raise those issues.  In this wine, we had found one.

Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery needs no introduction to those who follow fine California wine.  The Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($190), discussed below, is one of this country’s best and most elite Cabs.  The estate vineyards are mainly devoted to Cabernet and other red Bordeaux varieties, but for thirty years they have included a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc vines.  To make its Sauvignon Blanc, Spottswoode also sources grapes from other renowned vineyards in both Sonoma County and in Napa Valley, such as Hyde, Farina and Stagecoach.  Spottswoode winemaker Aron Weinkauf ferments these grapes in a creative mix of stainless steel barrels (for 60 percent of the wine), French oak barrels (for 35 percent of the wine, of which 15 percent are new) and concrete cuves (5 percent of the wine).  Site complexity, clonal complexity, fermentation complexity and high standards have created a brilliant Sauvignon Blanc wine.

The wine’s fresh, pronounced aroma evokes citrus, tropical and stone fruits:  Lemon and grapefruit mingle with melon and guava, and with nectarine.  In your mouth, the wine is dry and nearly full-bodied with creamy texture and vibrant acidity.  Its flavors are concentrated and vivid, echoing those in the aroma, with mango and herbal notes joining in; these flavors are enduring on the palate as you hold the wine in your mouth.  Nothing about this wine says “oak” except the rich texture and the slightest note of toast on the finish; in fact the purity and intensity of flavor skews this wine itoward the unoaked stylistic camp.  Dry, rich, extremely flavorful, with great depth and enduring length: this is a Sauvignon Blanc that offers the ready expressiveness of the variety and yet is actually an important wine.

The 2014 Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is the current release of the winery’s flagship wine.  This is one of the finest California Cabernets I have ever tasted.  A tasting note that dissects the components of this wine’s taste -- its full body, its black- blue- red-fruits aromas and flavors with toast and cedar and lead pencil, its supple tannins -- seems beside the point.  This is a magical Cabernet that enters your mouth smooth and velvety and grows into roundness and harmony before subsiding with a long, resonating finish.  Nothing of the linear Cabernet Sauvignon structure here, no concentrated fruit held within a controlling frame of tannin.  Instead, this wine blossoms in your mouth and holds there, an integrated whole, somewhat akin to the expression of a great Pinot Noir.  The 2014 Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is so beautiful now that I wonder what advice to give collectors; ultimately, I believe it is so balanced and integrated that it cannot but evolve for twenty years or more. 

2016 Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc, 93 Points
2014 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon, 98 Points