“Drinking good wine in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures.”… Michael Broadbent
Every time I enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, I’m still surprised that this grape, along with Cabernet Franc, is responsible for creating Cabernet Sauvignon: a red wine grape more structured than either of its parents, tannic and with concentrated phenolics. But DNA profiling took this from suspicion to fact back in 1997. Now the only suspicion remaining is when (not how) this occurred. The “how” is that the crossing was spontaneous, an act of Mother Nature in the field. The “when” is guessed to be in the 18th century, and the “where” is in the Loire Valley of France.
That brings me to surprise number two. The Loire Valley is home to Sancerre. It is home to Pouilly-Fume and their eastern satellites: Quincy, Reuilly, and Menetou-Salon. The climate here and the porous limestone soil argue intelligently for matching the variety to terroir. And when it comes to enjoying Sauvignon Blanc, this is the juice I have always drank. It is the spiritual home of this varietal. Despite New Zealand catapulting into the U.S. market “big time” with its Marlborough style in the mid-1980s, Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire is still my “reflex” option. All palates are personal and mine prefers the more subtle, mineral notes from France.
Problem is, this Sauvignon Blanc is from California. Vines are estate grown in the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. I had tasted Rochioli’s “Estate” (blend) Sauvignon Blanc before. (see http://www.winemizer.net/2018/03/rochioli-vineyards-sauvignon-blanc-2017.html ). The blend is not of varietals, but separate plots (all estate) and 55% of that blend is harvested from the original 1959 plot from which this single vineyard (“Old Vines”) Sauv Blanc is exclusively made. As a life long Francophile, I shouldn’t like it as much as I do. But three generations and over seventy-five years of wine making and grape growing experience by the Rochioli family in the Russian River Valley AVA have won me over.
I served this wine with the first course of a dinner I prepared for some very dear friends. Best wines should always be shared with friends. And with the first course being asparagus soup, Sauvignon Blanc was a given. It’s the wine that can pair with this challenging vegetable. My original concern was “How much better could this single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc be?” As I said, 55% of the estate blend is comprised of juice from this same plot. I ordered just two bottles. That’s two too bad! While the estate blend is seductively delicious, this “Old Vines” (list) wine takes it up a notch.
Somehow, Tom Rochioli has managed in the “new world” to repress yet express fruit. His wine serves as a definition of “balance”, a see-saw of “old world” terroir and “new world” fruit melded with nuance. In the glass, it’s suggestion rather than dominance. Stronger on the nose than a comparable Sancerre it weaves together that region’s minerality with a hint of New Zealand’s grapefruit and South Africa’s savory qualities. It’s all there, but each note is reserved; working in harmony as an essential contribution to the balanced whole.
I understand you’re looking for traditional tasting notes. But that’s the beauty of Rochioli’s single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. Using them - the crib notes of wine reviewers - would be a disservice. If you appreciate seduction, hint, nuance – you will appreciate this wine for its complex mystery. The challenge in tasting and talking about this magnificent Sauvignon Blanc is dissecting its flavors. The wine is a woven texture of intermingled tastes. Vegetative/herbal (grass, green herbs, tomato leaf, sage) against tree fruit & melon (green melon) and citrus (lime, grapefruit). Gooseberry vs. rounder, softer notes. Lime leaves against lavender. It’s the seamless melding of characters in Rochioli’s Sauvignon Blanc that amazed me. Nothing to excess. Everything in balance, playing against its opposite. It plays in the glass and on the palate as a symphony, not a concerto. No one note is dominant, each coming in at seemingly the right moment and with just the correct volume to work for the taster's enjoyment. The five of us at dinner (all wine aficionados, and two of us committed Francophiles) were impressed. That’s a consensus and a recommendation for a wine you may want to enjoy at your own table.
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(1) Asparagus soup just needs some onion, celery, carrot and garlic, all diced, softened stove top and made smooth in the food processor then simmered in chicken broth with just a touch of half & half added later. Recipe upon request (if I can remember).
(2) The estate blend is available retail and at the winery (or through its website). “List” wines are available, because of their limited production, only to those individuals who have registered to be included on the “list”. Visit the website, if interested, and sign in to be included. Many people, like me, on the list are old and won’t be on the list forever – thereby making room.
(3) Coming up: Part III: The Main Course!
J. Rochioli Vineyards & Winery: http://www.rochioliwinery.com/
6192 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
ARP N/A ($48.00 “list” price)
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