Thursday, June 13, 2024

The First Blush of Summer

31,000+ Rose Wine Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free ...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Getty Images

 clear long stem wine glass lotAre you anxious for summer to begin?  I ask, because the first day of summer is next week, so I'm not really rushing things with this post.  And you'll excuse me for suggesting in the title, that this piece will be about blush wines.

A blushing person has a red face, caused by embarrassment or shyness, while a white wine takes on a "blush" of red when fermented from black grapes.  Blush is what the folks at Mill Creek Winery had in mind when they named their new lightly tinted wine.  The origin of the name was disputed by a wine writer, claiming he first used the term "blush." 

Truth be told, Mill Creek and the wine writer were never associated with blush wines as much as Sutter Home, the Napa Valley winery that adopted a variation of blush and then sold a gazillion cases of White Zinfandel.

But this piece is about rosé, a wine made from dark-skin grapes that undergoes  a short maceration, resulting in a wine ranging in color, from the pale orange-pink of Oeil-de-Perdrix (Eye of the Partridge) to the darker pink wine known in Spain as clarete.

The French are credited with many things associated with wine, including the development of rosé wines.  Among the most noted French Rosés are Tavel from the Rhone Valley and Rosé d'Anjou and Cabernet d'Anjou from the Loire Valley, and the pink wines from Provence.

Wherever black wine grapes are grown, you're likely to find pink wine:  Weissherbst and Schillerwein, Germany;  Rosato and Chiaretto, Italy; and Rosado and Clarete, Spain.

Making Rosé

Before looking  at the more popular rosés, here are a few words on how rosés are made.

At one time, pink wines were made by a number of different methods, including mixing red and white wines together and by using charcoal to extract the color from a red wine.  Today, the most common ways to make a rosé is by skin contact for a short period, of dark-skin grapes, in a press or tank, or by a maceration until the desired color is achieved.

Other methods for making a pink wine include saignée and vin gris.  Saignée is  the French term for "bled."  After a short maceration, a certain amount of free-run juice is run off during crushing of dark-skin grapes.  Saignée can be tricky, arriving at just right amount of pink color. 

Despite its name, Vin gris is not grey, but a pale pink wine, often made from the dark-skin Grolot, using white wine making techniques. Thus, the grapes are lightly pressed but not macerated; the key difference between vin gris and other pink wines.

The Best Known Rosés

Consumer buying habits for wine are usually based on price and brand familiarity. While the French rosés, Tavel and Rose d'Anjou, may be the most highly rated and considered to be the essence of what a pink wine should be, they are more expensive and less known.  Retail prices for Tavel range from $20 to $25, Rosé d'Anjou is $12 to $20. California roses have a wider price range, $12 to $35. 

                                       Chateau D'Aqueria Tavel Rose 2015

Tavel is an appellation in the southern Rhone Valley.  Tavel has three distinctions that set it apart from other French wines: Tavel was one of the first six wines to be granted an AOC designation in 1936; Tavel is the rare French appellation producing only rosé wine; and Tavelis is dry and long-lived for a rosé.              

The popular pink wine is a blend of Grenache and other grapes, most noteably, Cinsault, which is also a component of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.   Tavel rosés worth trying: Ch. d'Aqueria, Domaine de la Mordoree and Domaine l'Anglore.

The flavor profile of Tavel features strawberries and raspberries, with hints of honey, dark  cherries and black pepper. Grenache rosé has refreshing acidity and the slightest amount of tannin for texture.

Rosé d'Anjou is an unusual pink wine from the Touraine region of the Loire Valley. It is   made from the Grolleau noir grape (better known as Groslot) and blended with Gamay.  The odd thing about Rosé d'Anjou  is while the grape is allowed in Rosé d'Anjou, the variety is not permitted in AOC Touraine red wines, such as Bourgueil. 

Fruit salad, leaning to dark cherries are the main flavor features of Rosé d'Anjou. The color is a deeper red, some even like a light red, and the finish is medium dry to sweet.  The charm for some rosé fans is its fruit-forward sweetish flavors.

Cabernet d'Anjou is the more high-brow of the two Anjou pink wines.  Made from Cabernet Franc in the western Loire valley, this pink wine occasionally is made from Cabernet Sauvignon, or a blend of the two cabernet grapes.  

Cabernet d'Anjou can be very sweet, with brisk acidity and enough tannin to be noticeable.  The fruit sweetness and drying tannin is an odd combination that works, attracting fans looking for a pink wine with substance. 

The Rest of the Pinks

Rosé fans may claim that Grenache makes the best pink wine, but there are plenty of folks who  can rattle off a list of other grapes that make successful rosés.  Zinfandel has its champions, as does Syrah and Petite Sirah.  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are three Bordeaux grapes that make respectable pink wines, as does Italian Nebbiolo and Sangiovese and the very popular Spanish Tempranillo.

A special category of pink wine is Rosé Champagne, an expensive bubbly made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or a blend of the two.

Matching a pink wine with food depends on the style of the rosé and the primary grape used to make the wine.  Just as Pinot Noir is an excellent match with grilled salmon, ham is very good with rosé, especially one with a little sweetness, like Rosé d'Anjou.  Tavel, Cabernet d'Anjou or a dry California rosé.  Though dry, these wines still have sweet fruit,  a nice match with grilled pork chops or a pork stew.   

The choices are nearly endless, but bold flavors and rosé are not a good match, so whatever you decide, keep the dish simple.

Next post: French or American Oak?

Contact me at

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Alexander Valley Cabernet

In the late 1970s, California wine exploded onto the scene, propelling consumer interest to take off like a sky rocket.  One lasting development of that market expansion is the head-to-head disagreement over which valley makes the best Cabernet Sauvignon: Napa Valley or Alexander Valley.  

Advocates in both camps counter by asking which is better, chicken or turkey?  Most people, surely most omnivores, would agree that it's a matter of personal choice.  Further, the consumer is bombarded by hundreds, if not thousands, of times a day with ads and images, suggesting we make a choice. Chicken or turkey?  Napa Valley or Alexander Valley?

Of course, the astute wine drinker would naturally choose both.  To help inform the conundrum, I offer this examination of  Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and why it has risen to the top of what many critics say is Sonoma County's best.  We'll look at Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in a future posting.

                                      Ripe Cabernet grapes on old vine growing in a vineyard Ripe Cabernet grapes on vine growing in a vineyard at sunset time, selective focus, copy space cabernet sauvignon grape stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

About Cabernet Sauvignon

First, a little background about Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab Sauv).  For a grape that is so widely planted throughout the world, Cab Sauv is relatively new, arriving on the Bordeaux wine scene in the late 18th century.  Little is known about how it got there, but thanks to DNA profiling in 1997, we now know that Cab Sauv's parents are Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, both of which appear, fleetingly at times, in the aroma and taste of Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Cab Sauv is a vigorous variety that needs to be restrained to avoid over-cropping.  An advantage for both the grower and winemaker is that Cab Sauv ripens slowly, after Cab Franc and Merlot, the two grapes most often used with Cab Sauv in the Bordeaux blend.  Cab Sauv likes warmth and doesn't ripen as well in cooler climates, tending to develop green, vegetative notes.

At ripeness, the taste of Cab Sauv is black fruits like blackberry and black currant.  Mature Cab Sauv shows more complex fruit and berry with, and this depends on your sensitivities and perception, pencil shavings and/or cigar box.  Alexander Valley Cab Sauv  fruit is sweeter than Bordeaux and the grape's natural acidity is often hidden behind the more forward fruit. 

Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

The history of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Alexander Valley really took off in the years after Prohibition was repealed in 1933.  Prunes and hops were major crops in the early years, but wine grapes eventually took hold, slowly at first. Then new vineyards moved to the bench lands and Cabernet Sauvignon became the leading variety in the valley.

Revolutionary may be too strong a word to describe the comments heard amongst California wine makers when the 1976 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon was released, but they became aware of this new style of California Cabernet Sauvignon. The Jordan release also made it clear that Alexander Valley was now a serious challenge to Napa Valley for the Cabernet crown. 

A lot has changed in the last 50 years with Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  Planted acreage has increased and there are more wineries now than ever making Cab Sauv.   Throughout the 1970s, Cabernet was planted mainly on flat lands, but as prime land became scarce, new vineyards took root in the low rounded hills surrounding the valley. 

Today, there are 30 wineries in the Alexander Valley, running east of US 101, from just south of Cloverdale to outside Healdsburg.  The valley has the warmest daytime temperatures in Sonoma County, an ideal condition for warmth loving Cabernet Sauvignon.

different older vintages of Jordan Winery Cabernet lined up in the background with a silver tray full of different vintages of Jordan Winery corks on it in the foreground
                                                                                                                               Courtesy Jordan Winery

An aside: Wine fans remember the occasion when their wine knowledge moved up a notch. For me, the date was sometime in the late 1970s.  Exact years are hard to pin down, the older I get.  But I was at the Jordan Winery, in the Alexander Valley, about to have my first taste  of an Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  

The French inspired Jordan Winery is tucked back out of sight on a hill, off Alexander Valley  Road.  As we drove up the narrow winding lane, Jordan's then director of national sales, Mel Master, explained to me that Tom Jordan is interested in hearing some outside comments about the Jordan 1976 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, before it's released.

Seated at the table in the grand dining room, as the Cabernet was being poured, I remembered Jordan telling me in an interview in his Denver office,  that he and his wife, Sally are Francophiles, with a particular preference for the wines of Bordeaux.  

With the first sip, I was struck with how non-California the wine smelled and tasted.  Being used to the riper, more fruit-forward style of North Coast Cab Sauvs, I was not prepared for the restrained, tightly-packed fruit flavors of the '76 Jordan.  Still, it had everything you'd want in a well-made Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The admiration for things French aside, Jordan wines are distinctly Californian. The Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon is one expression of Alexander Valley and by extension, California.  Jordan Cab Sauv remains one of Alexander Valley's best.  

Here are eight more Alexander Valley wineries making impressive Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley grapes: Stonestreet, Alexander Valley Vineyards, DeLorimier Winery, Soda Creek Winery, Silver Oak Cellars, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Trentadue Winery, Robert Young Estate Winery.

Next time you're shopping for California Cabernet Sauvignon, remember Alexander Valley.


Next post: The First Blush of Summer

Write me at 


Thursday, May 30, 2024

This and That


                           6,999 Clip Art Newspaper Royalty-Free Photos and Stock ... 

Writing 52 posts a year, more or less, requires topics of interest to fill the space. There are always bits and pieces, some newsy, most just of general interest, that are better as short items.  Here are some you may not have seen:  

The Future of Wine:  I have been reading a flurry of articles that suggest we may be  entering a time of neo-prohibition. Chicken Little might not be saying the sky is falling, but the message is concerning.  According to one article, the U.S. government, following the lead of anti-alcohol scare mongers, is on the verge of changing U.S. Dietary Guidelines by 2025 to say that all alcohol is bad for you.  The World Health Organization made a similar claim in 2023.  The fear is that the government is being pressured by temperance groups that are saying don't drink, period.  If you enjoy the occasional glass of wine, you should be concerned.  I'm monitoring the issue and will let you know if there's anything new. 

Inter-Country Cooperation:  British Columbia, Canada's western wine province, was hard hit by a deep freeze and wild fires in 2023 that decimated much of the region's wine grape crop.  Across the border in Washington state, wineries are dealing with a grape glut.  So, the Washington State Department of Agriculture arranged a program to supply BC wineries with grapes, all they need to do is declare the exact tonnage needed.  The choices are any of 10 white grapes, including Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc and 12 reds, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Syrah.  And, according to WSDA, it will all be done with an absence of red tape.

The Latest on Malbec:  There is new interest in Malbec, one of five grapes that make up the Bordeaux blend, due in large part to its success in Argentina.  Recently, scientists have been busy in Argentina, Germany and Spain decoding the genome of Malbec.  Project Iberogen looked at genetic material of Mercier clone 136, developed in Argentina, resulting in a promise for new life for the variety, while forecasting an increase in grape quality and wine.  

Albarino in Lodi:  Albarino is the super-star of Spanish white wine, no mean feat considering the worldwide obsession with Chardonnay.  Randy Caparoso, reporting on the popularity of Albarino for Lodi Wine Growers, says there are more producers of Albarino in Lodi than there are brands of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.  Albarino does well in Lodi because of the California region's dry Mediterranean climate.  Caparoso recommends these Albarinos from three of Lodi's seven sub-regions: Klinker Brick Winery, Mokelumne River; Lewis Grace Winery, Alta Mesa; Bokisch Vineyards, Clements Hills.

White Pinot Noir: Sonoma magazine suggests that its readers, damn the price, and embrace White Pinot Noir.  In a short article on the new wine, Sarah Doyle explains that  pigment-rich Pinot Noir skins are separated, making a white wine with "a refreshing acidity that works well with many foods."  These four Wine Pinot Noirs and their lofty prices were included: Emeritus Vineyards, $44;  Maggy Hawk, $60;  Waits-Mast, $42;  Schug Estate,$46.

Do Old Vines Make a Difference?  In a word: yes.  But defining old vine is hard, since there is no official definition.  However, the accepted minimum age, at least in the United States, is 50 years.  South Africa's "Old Vine Project" stipulates a 35 year minimum.  Australia, with  one of the largest number of old vines in the world, lays out four levels in its "Old Vine Charter:" Old Vine, 35 years; Survivor, 70; Centenarian, 100 and Ancestor, 125 years minimum. Winemakers believe that old vine wines have deeper color, more complex aroma and concentrated flavors.                                             

                                    1,170 Bottle Caps Closures Royalty-Free Images, Stock Photos ...

 A Different Screwcap for Every Wine:  A group of closure firms has sponsored a recent study that sheds new light on the question of using screwcaps for all styles of wine, in particular high-end, high-priced wines.  Sarah Neish, in The Drinks Business, said the study found that different wines are better suited to different wine styles, as determined by the phenolic composition of the wine.  Consumers seem to be unconvinced, showing a preference for natural cork closures.

No-alcohol Alsatian Vin:  A recent article in the Wine Spectator, by Suzanne Mustacich, reports that the venerable Alsace winery, Famille Hugel, is making a no-alcohol Riesling called "0.0."  Mon dieu!  Could this traditional winery in eastern France, that has been making wine for centuries, be about to alter tradition?  Not really.  The 13th generation prankster, Jean-Frederic Hugel, was making a little April Fool's joke, quipping,  "the best non-alcoholic beverage is water." 

Bordeaux Two Buck Chuck: French grape growers in the Gironde are fuming over the sale of a Bordeaux wine at super market giant Carrefour, for 1.66 Euros (that's $1.81).  According to a growers union rep, Carrefour sells a bottle of Coca-Cola for E1.85 ($2.01) and water, not from  Alsace, for E2 ($2.17). That's a better price than Two Buck Chuck, which no longer sells for two bucks!    

Next post:  Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Email me at


Thursday, May 23, 2024

Rioja Rojas

       Spain wooden sign — Stock Photo, Image

When I started writing about wine, in the early 1970s, Rioja was already Spain's iconic red wine.  A survey of Denver wine shops then would have disclosed only a few  Rioja red wines, and then from a handful of large traditional vintners such as Federico Paternina, CVNE, Marques de Murrieta, Marques de Riscal and Bodegas Campo Viejo.  

As interest in wine picked up, starting in the early 1970s, more Rioja wines became available. Today, there are hundreds of bodegas  on both sides of the  Autopista A68, from the Rioja wine capital city of Haro, southeast past  Logrono to Alfaro.  It's a scenic highway that passes through sub-zones Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Oriental (formerly Rioja Baja).

The wine, food and culture centers follow the Ebro river through Rioja.  In a distance of only 60 miles, you'll find Logrono and Haro in Rioja Alta, Laguardia at the center of Rioja Alavesa, and Alfaro, Calahora and Arnedo the main cities in the sprawling Rioja Oriental. 

There are more than 600 wineries in Rioja, from small family-owned vintners in Rioja Alavesa to large cooperatives and wine companies in Rioja Oriental.   Grower/winery relationships in Rioja are like those in Champagne, where a large number of independent growers sell grapes to wineries, rather than a winery growing its own grapes.

Technical Rioja

Spanish wine is regulated by  the Denominacion de Origen (DO) system, similar to the French AOC system of rules regulating the growing and production of wine.  It's a lot of acronyms to remember, but a working knowledge will help in making a more informed buying decision.

Although DO is still widely used, the official designation is now DOP, Denominacion de Origen Protegida, (Protected), a mouthful for non-Spanish speakers that falls in line with the EU's Protected Designation of Origin.

Additionally, a change to Spanish wine law has added Vino Municipio (single village) and Vineado Singular (single vineyard), terms that may be used on wine labels.  In 1991 Rioja was the first Spanish region to be awarded DOCa, Denominacion de Origen Calificada, (Qualified) for wines that meet higher standards than are spelled out under DO/DOP.

These are the key points of the three sub regions and the wines:

Rioja Alavesa, the smallest of the three sub-regions. Alavesa and Rioja Alta are thought to make the highest quality red wines.  Vineyards in the northwest of Alavesa are up to 4,000 ft., higher than any in Rioja. The elevation, and being closer to the Mediterranean, brings cool breezes to the vineyards, that are around the towns of Haro and Laguardia.  Red grapes: Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Garnacha, Graciano.  And Viura (Macabeo) for white. Prominent  Alavesa wineries include Marques de Riscal, CVNE, Bodegas Faustino, Bodegas El Coto.

Laguardia, Spain - La Rioja tourist ...
Laguardia, Rioja Alavesa

Rioja Alta is the westernmost of the three sub regions.  The vineyards, mostly south of the Ebro river are lower than in Rioja Alavesa.  Although red wines from both Alta and Alavesa have  their advocates, both produce quality reds, with, arguably, the edge going to Rioja Alavesa.  Generally, Alta wines are lighter in body, with lower acidity. The grape mix is the same as in Alavesa, leaning heavily on Tempranillo.  Rioja Alta wineries: Bodegas Muga, La Rioja Alta, Bodegas Marques de Murrietta, Marques de Caceres.

Rioja Oriental, until 1968 known as Rioja Baja, is  in the eastern broader part of the valley. Oriental is warmer, except for sections around Alfaro.  The climate and fertile soils are right for growing Garnacha.  In recent years, though, Tempranillo began to replace Garnacha, but now, with winemakers finding new potential in Garnacha, the pendulum is swinging back. There's less limestone and more clay than in Alta vineyards.  Rioja Oriental wineries: Bodegas D. Mateos, Bodegas Ontanon, Palacios Remondo, Bodegas Vinicola Real.

Rioja Grapes and Tasting

There are two main grapes in Rioja red wine: Tempranillo and Garnacha.  Tempranillo is native to Spain, while Garnacha (aka, Grenache), is popular in Rioja Oriental and  is equally at home in Priorat, Spain's most distinctive and expensive red wine.  Different expressions of Tempranillo can also be found in Ribera del Duero, Catalonia, Navarra, Costers del Segre and Somontano.

In addition to Tempranillo and Garnacha, there are four other authorized grapes: Mazuelo, Graciano, Viura and Macabeo, the latter two grapes are white.  Cabernet Sauvignon is also allowed, but only with special permission.  Rioja winemakers have found that blending works better with native varieties.  Perhaps the practice is a holdover from the late 19th century, when French winemakers settled in Rioja following the destruction of vineyards by phylloxera in Bordeaux. 

The following rules apply to Rioja red wines:  Crianza, a minimum of 18 months, 12 of which in oak barrels;  Reserva, 3 years, 12 months in barrel; Gran Reserva, 3 years ,minimum, 2 in oak and the wine cannot be moved from the winery until the 6th year after the vintage.

The quality of Rioja red wines has come a long way, spurred on by the challenge from Ribera del Duero wines. Rioja Crianza wines are good value choices for summer enjoyment.

Next post: This and That

Contact me at





Thursday, May 16, 2024

Feret & Alan Spencer

In 1982, the 13th edition of  "Bordeaux and Its Wines," popularly known as the "Feret," was published in Bordeaux, along with an English translation.

No other wine book has had such an impressive track record, yet the Feret is a reference  few American wine consumers know about, even though it's now in the 17th edition. 

Remarkably, the first edition was published in 1850!  Subsequent editions of the hardcover reference boast 1,867 pages, references to 1,700 Bordeaux estates, and weighs a hefty 13 pounds.  Much lighter, but no less impressive, is the included large fold-out Carte Vinicole de la Gironde.  The price in 1982, for what then was likely the world's most expensive wine book, was $82, not including shipping.

My friend, the late Alan Spencer, was the translator of the 13th English edition.  Alan was an ex-pat Englishman, a man of many interests and passions, who spoke five languages and who tried tirelessly to play Bach piano pieces, traveled and wrote about wine and, according to his French son, Christophe, spoke very good French with a slight accent. The Spencer's lived in Castillon la Bataille, along the Dordogne  river.

There's more about how Alan Spencer, the Wine Spectator, Bordeaux wine, the Feret and I met and interacted, but first more on what the impressive Feret has meant to Bordeaux and its wines. 

Feret's "Bordeaux and Its Wines"

In the Preface, Hugh Johnson, the eminent English wine writer, briefly spells out the background and genesis  of the reference book. "It first sprang from the mind of an Englishman...Charles Cocks.  Not very much is known of him, besides what can be gleaned from his highly influential work."  Johnson notes that the first edition was titled "Cocks et Feret," a partnership Cocks had with Edouard Feret.

The name Charles Cocks rarely comes up in discussions of wine lore, yet his memorable contribution to wine,  besides the Feret, is the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, a ranking of Bordeaux wines that remains relevant today.  About ten years earlier, Cocks had published his own classification of Bordeaux wines, which led to the famous 1855 classification. 

The massive Feret, recognized by wine book collectors as the indispensable reference for Bordeaux wines, is in the 17th English edition and is now up to 2,336 pages.  Besides entries for all Bordeaux chateaux, with engravings of each property, the Feret contains chapters on Bordeaux Viticulture, Harvesting and Winemaking, Wine Production, the art of choosing and drinking Bordeaux wines, a comprehensive Bordeaux Glossary and more.  

Each entry contains basic information about the estate, including a brief history, and an engraving of each chateau; the engravings were first introduced in the 1881 edition. There's also a brief description of the wine, such as this over-wrought one for Ch. Lafite-Rothschild: "The bouquet of Lafite wines is very suave, and of incomparable delicacy; its savor brings together, at the same time, the taste of almonds and the scent of violets, without it being possible to distinguish whether one dominates the other."

Alan Spencer and the Feret

Unless you were reading the Wine Spectator or Decanter in the early 1980s, the name Alan Spencer won't be familiar to you.  Alan was living in Bordeaux then and traveling for Kalamazoo, a French computer software company, named for the Michigan city where it started, when he came across a copy of the Wine Spectator.  I was editor then of the Wine Spectator and we were looking for more coverage of French wines. 

Alan wrote to me saying he was interested in writing about wine.  Over the next few years, Alan wrote about all aspects of Bordeaux wine, from his home not far from St. Emilion.  And from his exposure in the Wine Spectator, he began to get assignments in Decanter, a British wine magazine that was looking for a different voice on French wine.

Word circulated around the tightly knit Bordeaux wine trade about Alan Spencer's knowledge of Bordeaux wines and his fluency with the French language.  Claude Feret, editor and and publisher of the Feret, offered Alan the huge task of translating the Feret from French to English.  There was an earlier English edition, but it needed a complete update, an undertaking that  Alan eventually discovered would last from 1983 into 1984.

By then, the collegial relationship between Alan and me had developed into a friendship.  We shared views on French wines and on one occasion, he told me, by telephone, of his mounting frustration with the translation and that Claude Feret tended to nit pick everything Alan sent him.  There was also the matter that Alan was not credited as the translator of the 13th Edition.  

The update and translation were eventually finished, the new edition published in 1986 and Alan moved on to other writing projects and practicing a Bach partita.

Not long after publication, I got a copy of the 13th Edition, with a red hardcover.  There are numerous  editions,  hardcover and softback, since the first one in 1850.  The 17th Edition, 2004, and others are available from eBay, Amazon, and even Walmart, for prices from $60, plus shipping, from AbeBooks, to the unexplained $394.95 for a 17th Edition in very good condition, from Amazon.

"Bordeaux and its Wines" is an unparalleled and indispensable guide to all Bordeaux wines and belongs in the library of all serious Bordeaux wine lovers as the ultimate Bordeaux reference.

Photos by Janet M. Boyd

Next post:  Rioja Rojas

Contact me at



Thursday, May 9, 2024

Napa Sauvignon Blanc


Napa valley Stock Photos, Royalty Free Napa valley Images ...

The other day, I was thinking about the Napa Valley's most popular wines (I know, it's the kind of  obsessive thing wine writers think about) and the first not-so obvious thought I had is Cabernet Sauvignon must account for at least half of the vineyard acreage in the Napa Valley.  

Perhaps that's not so surprising.  After all, Cabernet Sauvignon is Napa's best known wine.  What is surprising is that Sauvignon Blanc, a popular white wine, is planted in just a fraction of the valley's vineyards.

According to Napa Vintners, these are the numbers for the planted acreage of the top five Napa Valley grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, 50%; Chardonnay, 14%; Merlot, 10%; Sauvignon Blanc, 6%, Pinot Noir, 6%.

The percentages clearly show that Napa is a red wine valley, with a little acreage devoted to  white varieties.  But it is surprising, considering the market dominance of Chardonnay,  that there is so little Chardonnay in Napa Valley.  And that there is not more Sauvignon Blanc in the valley.  

Also, why is there as much Pinot Noir as Sauvignon Blanc in Napa Valley, when Pinot Noir is mainly grown in Napa-Carneros?  And the majority of Carneros vineyards are in Sonoma, not Napa.  Questions like these can keep you up at night.

The Napa Valley Style

So, let's take a closer look at Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc and what you, the consumer, should expect from the wine.

Napa Valley has around 46,000 acres of vines and it is just about planted out.  A lot of Sauvignon Blanc is rooted mid-valley, especially around Rutherford.  With Cabernet Sauvignon the dominant variety in the valley, wineries wanting to add Sauvignon Blanc to their wine list, will have to look in every open corner where the grape does well.

Sauvignon Blanc buds late and ripens early, so it doesn't need a lot of heat to bring out the best in the grape.  In the warmer north-valley, around Calistoga, the danger for Sauvignon Blanc, is low acidity and a loss of varietal distinction. 

Savvy fans of Sauvignon Blanc will tell you that Sancerre and Pouilly Fume, from the Loire Valley and Bordeaux blanc, are the versions Americans knew best, until New Zealand's Cloudy Bay introduced Americans to a whole new style of Sauvignon Blanc. 

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc took off like a rocket, with it's tropical flavors and tangy citrus acidity.  Stylish and flavorful, the "sauvy" style  soon became the one to emulate.  

Considering the differences in country and terroir, it was understood that you can't make New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in the Napa Valley.  However, a number of Napa winemakers shifted their Sauvignon Blanc style from more like France to New Zealand.  

Unripe Sauvignon Blanc grapes on vine — Stock Photo, Image
Unripe Sauvignon Blanc                   

Flint, or silex, in the soil of Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire gives Sauvignon Blanc a certain gun flint aroma, setting the style more like Loire than Bordeaux, neither of which appealed to some Napa winemakers.  

Fact is, there is no one Napa Sauvignon Blanc style, but it's safe to say that the main  focus is on freshness, leaning toward citrus and tropical fruit, without an herbal note found in some Sauvignons.   The most popular style is Sauvignon Blanc sans oak, although there are some Napa wineries aging their Sauvignons for short periods in French oak. 

These are but a few of the many Napa Sauvignon Blancs: Cakebread, La Pelle, Taub Family, Oberon, Cliff Lede, Lail, Rombauer, Honig, Twomey, Groth, Mason, St. Supery, Charles Krug, Green & Red, Screaming Eagle.  Most are priced in the mid-$20s. Twomey is $35 and the $3,812/750ml price for  Screaming Eagle Sauvignon, is enough to make a wine lover scream. 

Next Post: Alan Spencer and The Feret

Contact me at