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Fruity, But No Trip to the Candy Store
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Jan 13, 2009
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St. Supéry Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Dollarhide Ranch 2007 ($35):  Of all white grape varieties, Sauvignon Blanc might very well be the one whose wines vary most in style from one wine region to another and, in the case of New World wines, from one producer to another.  California Sauvignon Blancs vary quite a lot in the nature of their fruit character, which can be extremely fruity or minerally or slightly vegetal.  These variations in raw material are then compounded by winemaking differences stemming from the presence or absence of oak, the inclusion or exclusion of Semillon, and the amount of residual sugar left in the finished wine.  In general, the fruity versions are not my favorites.  But, as this particular wine has caused me to realize, there's fruity and then there's fruity….

To my taste, fruitiness in California wines too often has a candied nature: the taste of a wine is not so much fresh fruit as it is the Lifesaver version of the fruit.   St. Supéry's Dollarhide Sauvignon Blanc - the winery's 'limited edition' Sauvignon Blanc wine -- instead suggests fresh, pure fruity aromas and flavors such as grapefruit zest, lime and green apple.  These notes are piercing and penetrating in the wine's aroma, and pronounced in the wine's flavor.  Sipping this wine on a wintry afternoon is like escaping straight into summer.

St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery is one of the California wineries most committed to Sauvignon Blanc.  The winery owns more than 200 acres of Sauvignon Blanc vines in Napa Valley -- that's almost 10% of the Sauvignon Blanc acreage in Napa Valley -- and Sauvignon Blanc represents more than 40% of the winery's production.  The basic St. Supéry Sauvignon Blanc ($20) contains fruit from Pope Valley, in northeastern Napa Valley, but this Dollarhide Sauvignon Blanc comes from grapes grown on the Dollarhide Ranch, which surrounds the winery in Rutherford.  Dollarhide is a 1500-acre property with elevations of 600 to 775 feet.  Its climate features very cool nights and warm days -- 9° cooler at night than St. Helena and 10° warmer by day.  Winemaker Michael Beaulac uses Sauvignon Blanc grapes from various parts of the property in making this wine.

Beaulac calls 2007 'A spectacular year' in Napa Valley.  Thanks to 'perfect weather,' the vines grew rapidly, but a low water table restricted the vines' vegetative growth somewhat, he believes, and thus the vines directed more than their usual amount of energy toward ripening the fruit.  The crop was fairly small with small clusters of grapes that ripened quickly.

The 2007 Dollarhide Sauvignon Blanc is truly dry (unusual for California, in my experience).  It is medium-bodied with high acidity that lends the wine depth, vibrancy and length in your mouth.  It has no oakiness, and has the freshness and intensity of fruit character typical of a white wine that has not undergone malolactic fermentation.  The wine's texture is rich in a way that you might describe as oily rather than creamy -- and the wine's crisp acidity cuts through the richness for a lovely contrast and balance.

I recommend drinking this wine over the next year to two years, while its pure fruit expression and its vibrancy are at their maximum expression.  A mache salad with goat cheese or feta cheese is an ideal food pairing; hummus dip, a wintry white bean stew or pasta with pesto are other good matches -- among, I suspect, many!

90 Points