“Wine is evolution  enhanced by innovation.”…….. James McMillan

One of the reasons I like Sauvignon Blanc (a parent grape to Cabernet Sauvignon) is the plant itself.  The vine is vigorous and wild like. And the wine produced by its grapes is seldom manipulated to excess by winemakers, so it yields a taste of its growth place.  Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa is (to me) somewhat grassy like its cousin in New Zealand.  California’s offers forward fruit. From the Loire Valley in France (the vine’s birthplace) we get minerality.  This (“terroir”) is so well understood in France that what we call Sauvignon Blanc they will label Sancerre or Pouilly Fume even though both are within the Loire Valley. No matter the address, the grape offers crisp acidity making it an excellent companion to a dinner of seafood, shellfish, sushi, shaved cheeses and more.  No matter the address, the grape offers unique tastes and character.

But, of course, there is more to making wine than simply squishing grapes. And while I am not a fan of what some call the global “standardization of wine” (in which – due to over manipulation - any variety regardless of its origin offers no differences from the same variety grown elsewhere), I appreciate the contribution that a skillful winemaker can make.  If handled delicately, thoughtfully, and with restraint a wine will maintain its character – its sense of growth place - while still expressing the unique profile of the chateau.
No, the wine's not blue. I am, because it's all gone!

That was my experience with StickyBeak’s 2012 (Russian River Valley) Sauvignon Blanc. In fact, even the label refers to it being “Curiously Made.”   And indeed, at first sip, I was very curious. In the glass, like all Sauvignon Blanc, it is pale, so pale it is almost translucent.  Often referred to as “pale straw,” I would say that any yellow – no matter how pale - in StickyBeak’s Sauvignon Blanc is not a color but more of a hint.

The nose offers lemon and (for me) enough of it to set it apart from domestic Sauvignon Blanc. I was reminded of the Italian whites that I so enjoy.  At first sip, I enjoyed a lemony minerality, again reminding me of a Greco Di Tufo. With some air, the lemon gave way to pear and quince while maintaining its Sauvignon Blanc identity. StickyBeak’s Sauvignon Blanc is different enough to get one’s creative process going:  I actually began to toy with the idea that this juice could do well as a sparkling wine, but that’s another story.  As I continued sipping, and the air softened the wine, I picked up a taste of kiwi. With all this going on and in such restrained balance, this was a Sauvignon Symphony; a most unusual and intriguing Sauvignon Blanc.

StickyBeak is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Grapes are carefully sourced from a Russian River (AVA) vineyard. Fruit is handpicked. So far, nothing to explain what I had tasted. It was time to do some homework because something different than just stainless fermentation was going on. I couldn’t imagine any malolactic fermentation and indeed there is none. What I learned is that 5% (just 5%) of the juice is barrel fermented in seasoned oak and it spends three months on its lees. The other 95% is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, one half of which also spends three months on its lees. The rest is pretty standard: neutral yeast is used; fermentation is 4-5 days. Grapes are picked at first light while still cool to maintain fruit.

A little difference, in this case a 5% difference, made enough of a difference in the wine to set it apart. Allowing the juice to rest on its spent yeast cells adds richness and a lusher mouthfeel. While still crisp and typically finishing clean, StickyBeak’s Sauvignon Blanc adds a savory characteristic through creative, restrained use of French barriques.

If you consider yourself an amateur student of wine but with a serious interest in learning, you should try this wine. You’ll gain by learning how the winemaker’s chosen process affects the taste of the finished product. Better yet: if you regularly enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, do a side-by-side (use two glasses) taste comparison of your “go-to” Sauv Blanc and StickyBeak. Tuition for this schooling is only $17 (for the Sticky) and the learning outcome (whatever you obtain) will be worth far more.

………………. Jim     

Follow Wine Mizer on facebook for food pairing and light-hearted general information.

StickyBeak Wines
703 Jefferson Street
Napa, California 94559
Phone: (707) 258-9552

StickyBeak wines is a member of the Old Bridge Cellar family of wineries.  Bottle for sampling was provided by Old Bridge Cellars.

No comments:

Post a Comment