I finally found a California sauvignon blanc that made me smile. This rare gem is the 2009 Wrath San Saba Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc.
Regular readers know my opinion of California wines, that too many have one common denominator-excess. Excessive levels of alcohol, excessive amounts of new French oak barrel aging, excessive ripeness and excessive use of purchased yeast strands designed to impart particular flavors into the wine. The 2009 Wrath San Saba Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc treats its sauvignon blanc more respectfully.
Wrath winery is the recent creation of Michael Thomas and his mother, Barbara Thomas Lemmon. Michael Thomas has a doctorate in classical art and archaeology, and for the past 15 years has been excavating in Italian sites and teaching at various American universities. His exposure to Italian culture, food and wine gradually gave him the desire to make wine. In 2007, he and his mother purchased the San Saba Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, 25 miles from Monterey, Calif.
California sauvignon blanc ranges from wanna-be chardonnays filled with candied-jujyfruit aroma and taste to alcohol-dominated or highly herbal-flavored wines. Finding a California sauvignon blanc with balanced fruit, acidity and alcohol is nearly as rare as a fifth-century B.C. Etruscan coin.
In 2009, winemaker Sabrine Rodems harvested the San Saba sauvignon blanc vineyard twice. The first picking gathered fruit with crisp acidity and mineral character; two weeks later, the second selection brought more developed fruit flavors. All were fermented in stainless steel tanks and bottled 6 months later.
Without a touch of oak, the wine’s natural lemon-thyme scent greets the nose. It is a delightful start. You can taste the two pickings: the gooseberry and lime-like acidity crosses your palate, and then the melon flavor appears in the finish. It is a yin-and-yang experience. And the low 12.6 percent alcohol never interrupts the wholeness of the wine.
As I enjoyed the sensations, I asked myself: Why can’t this be the standard for California sauvignon blancs? Why do California wineries think they have to make over-the-top wines?
The 2009 Wrath San Saba Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc is a wonderful wine for all seasons. In the midst of our hot summer, enjoy a glass with grilled veal or pork aside a ratatouille of farmers market vegetables, or spicy foods that need a cool, crisp, refreshing counterpoint. And in the depth of winter, this wine will be wonderful with a fish stew or roasted chicken; you will instantly recall that summer day when you tasted a great California sauvignon blanc.
The 2009 Wrath San Saba Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc retails for approximately $24. Only 328 cases of this wine were made- don’t delay.