For those who have been following the What’s Worth Drinking Central Coast Saga, less than three days passed after I returned from my trip before I was back in the Temecula Valley tasting wine. As a result, today’s article includes a Sauvignon Blanc from both places in something of a comparative Central Coast – Temecula Valley taste off.
As I mentioned in my first article in the series on Dierberg and Star Lane, I often have a hard time finding really impressive Sauvignon Blanc from California. To quote that review directly; “for some reason, it seems that this grape expresses itself the least uniquely here, with flavors and aromas that are often not far from those of a light, easy drinking, slightly green tasting, Pinot Grigio. France’s Loire Valley makes brilliant wines, searing with acidity and loaded with minerality, New Zealand makes explosive Sauvignon Blanc, full of unmistakable tropical fruits, and even places like Chile and Australia make beautifully complex Sauvignon Blanc, dominated by green fruit and grass tones. It can be a challenge to find a California Sauvignon Blanc with the same depth and structure that these other examples have.”
The main goal of today’s article is to showcase two wines that stand out from the ordinary crowd. Secondly, I can’t count how many times I’ve talked to people who were unfamiliar with the Temecula Valley who are surprised to find out that white wines are made successfully here. They assume that the climate is too hot and dry to grow white grapes, especially high acid varietals like Sauvignon Blanc, so today I wanted to shatter that misconception with a shining example of Temecula grown Sauvignon.
In an effort to offer a fair comparison between the two wines being featured today, both Sauvignon Blancs are single vineyard bottlings coming from the same vintage. Of course, the climates and styles of the winemakers differ considerably, so this tasting is more about showing well made examples of Sauvignon Blanc from both regions than it is about making an actual comparison.
Wine #1: Brander 2009 Santa Ynez Valley “Purisima Mountain Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc
Brander Vineyards is one of the few wineries in California known specifically for specializing in Sauvignon Blanc. Their line consists of a series of blends (red, white, and pink), some Bordeaux reds, a number of Syrahs, a Chardonnay, and a Moscato, but seven out of their nine current white releases are either varietal bottlings or blends consisting of Sauvignon Blanc.
Their Purisima Vineyard bottling uses only fruit from that single, hillside vineyard. The free run juice is left in contact with the skins for one day prior to fermentation to build complexity, and fermentation and aging take place strictly in stainless steel to preserve the purity of the fruit flavors, without the influence of oak.
Cut oranges and apples show initially on the nose. Fresh Asian pear, chalk, and stone also open up with a little more investigation. It is not actually the complexity of this wine’s aroma that makes it unique, as the nose is somewhat straightforward, but the sheer precision of each of the aromatics makes this wine stand out from the crowd.
Offering a good impact on the palate, this wine shows solid complexity and a subdued but fresh acidity. The flavor profile is flinty, with fresh cut pear, green apple, and lemon pith mingling with a faint chalkiness throughout the palate. This is a pleasant wine with a good amount of subtlety and refinement, and it provides a very solid example of well made California Sauvignon Blanc.
Worth Trying. 89 points.
Wine #2: Falkner 2009 Temecula Valley “Estate Grown” Sauvignon Blanc
Founded in 2000, Falkner Winery specializes in refined, highly drinkable, food friendly wines. As if designed specifically to match the adventurous cuisine of their elegant Pinnacle restaurant, the wines here offer a softer, easy to pair style that the Temecula Valley can do so artfully. Their current offerings are diverse, and include a variety of red blends, some Bordeaux varietals, their famous Syrah, as well as a Riesling, a Viognier, and of course, a Sauvignon Blanc.
The aroma of this wine is very crisp and enticing. Gooseberry, lime, and subtle tones of lemon, wet grass, and struck flint all well up from the glass.
Soft, subtle, and delicate, the same crispness found on the nose appears on the palate. Fresh minerals combine with notes of green figs, gooseberries, and grapefruits. Citrus leaves and limestone also make an appearance around the edges. This is a fascinating wine with very enjoyable complexity that seems to speak with a faint New Zealand accent. Nicely balanced with fresh acidity and distinct mineral tones, this is a solid Sauvignon Blanc that does California and the Temecula Valley proud.
Worth Trying. 89 points.
Follow Tyler Worth as he explores the world of wine and more via his blog What’s Worth Drinking.