Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: This white wine’s on the rise

Chardonnay is still No. 1 in the U.S. wine market, but sales were flat in 2014 for the first time in years, according to a Nielsen Report. The report also noted that the hottest varieties sold were sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. This is great news. Sauvignon blanc (SAW-vin-yon blawnk) is my go-to white wine. It’s lighter, less expensive than chardonnay and much more food friendly. Grapefruity, herbaceous, citrus-y and freshly mown grass are typical descriptors. Some have notes of gooseberries and a touch of minerality (think wet stones).

Sauvignon blanc is also called fumé blanc, thanks to Robert Mondavi’s marketing strategy in the 1960s. Sales were lagging. He took the word fumé (meaning smoke) from the French wine, Pouilly-Fumé, connected it with blanc and voilà, sales took off. The wine is normally made without oak in New Zealand, Sancerre (France), Fruili (Italy) and Chile. In Bordeaux, France and Australia, oak is used and it’s common to blend in semillon. In California, the style is determined by the weather. Cooler climates produce more crisp, acidic wines. Warmer areas like Napa produce more luscious wines with higher alcohol content.

To find your favorite style of sauvignon blanc, I suggest you invite your WDFs over and tell them to bring their favorite sauvignon/fumé blanc, bag them and then taste (see, swirl, smell, sip, swish-slosh … you know the drill). Share notes, vote and then reveal the brands and prices. Finish off the wines, have fun and remember to trust your palate.

Here are some of my favorite sauvignon blancs: under $7, Dancing Bull and Fetzer; under $10, Kenwood and Geyser Peak; under $13, Hanna, Chateau St. Jean and Honig; and around $18, Franciscan, Cuvaison, Niner, Charles Krug and Mondavi.

Justin Winery honored

Justin Vineyards & Winery has been named by Wine Enthusiast as a nominee for the 2015 Wine Star Award for American Winery of the Year. This marks the first nomination for the Paso Robles winery, known for its ultra-premium Bordeaux-style blends. The magazine will announce the winner Nov. 3. The Wine Star Awards gala will be held Jan. 25 at the New York City Library. The other nominees include Abacela Winery in Oregon, Gramercy Cellars in Washington state, Schramsberg Vineyards in Napa and Becker Vineyards in Texas. Congratulations to Justin Vineyards and Winery and the Paso Robles AVA.