AVA GRACE SAUVIGNON BLANC (2017)
“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.” ……. Ashley Montagu
Pouring wine has its upside. For one, I need to taste the wines I’m sampling before I serve them. But the best moments come in my tasting one of those wines that I would likely and otherwise never make the acquaintance of. This happened recently when I was pouring four Ava Grace wines: A Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, a Rose and a Red Blend. Ava Grace Vineyards also produces Chardonnay and Merlot. The four I poured were all soft, easy drinking and made for the American palate. The Rose and Red Blend were fruit forward, but not offensively so. And the Red Blend offered an interesting and enticing mortar-mashed mix of brown spice.
Of those, I most liked the Sauvignon Blanc. And that was a surprise because I generally don’t prefer Sauvignon Blanc produced domestically. Those that I do invariably end up being high end, sometimes difficult to find and always expensive.
At an ARP of $8, this Ava Grace is embarrassingly inexpensive. And the surprise continues.
What do you conclude about a wine when several of the people tasting it say they like the label because it is so beautiful? And, worse, the back label is almost all “happy talk” with references to “The beautiful word AVA means life and we believe in wine that promises Grace in every glass.” Then there’s: “…integrity, beauty and soul, so what you taste inspires happiness and serenity. Be grateful, be graceful, and taste the beauty.” I hate happy talk. As Joe Friday used to say in “Dragnet”, “Just the facts.” But then there’s the web site. Could be some hope there. How is it vinified? How long? Most of it I can now guess and get pretty close, but I prefer dealing in facts, not almost/pseudo/alternative facts. And a winery’s website is straight – as they say - from the horse’s mouth and so can be trusted. Except it too was all “happy talk.” I hate happy talk! There just has to be much in my DNA that makes me want to dislike this wine.
Except the wine itself. Disregarding the happy talk and the “How cute is that” label, the wine is good. Surprisingly good. For you lovers of grapefruit and grass, it is not like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. And it has nowhere near the minerality of a Sancerre. But it also is not a substitute for sugar syrup, nor is it lopsided in taste or offering a taste so weak one wonders why one bothered? (All which is a problem I encounter with some domestics). This is California juice, for sure, but to my palate there’s a respect paid to old world beliefs.
In fairness to the front label, it does refer to “Citrus, Floral, Refined” and it is the word “Refined” that best exemplifies what I intended by saying “old world beliefs.” There is a cornucopia of both aromas and tastes in this wine, but overall, each is delicate. It’s a stew with diced vegetables and protein, not large chewy chunks, and it doesn’t present anything out of balance. You will be able to discern all the elements you expect in Sauvignon Blanc but the surprise comes in appreciating the harmony of these hints melding together. In fact, it was done so well, I couldn’t help but like this wine.
No wonder Wine Enthusiast said it was a “Best Buy” and Wine Spectator said it was a “Great Value.” Let me repeat: the ARP is $8. For me, the nose was fresh, subtle and finessed with cooked herbs, lime crème, and then becoming more pungent with quince. On the palate: creamy lime, tart apple, kiwi, quince; greener than an Albarino but with (for me) no grapefruit, though some gooseberry. It’s soft and flavorful and has melon notes. There’s tropical fruit, though again as a mélange. Acidity is minimal, though it finishes crisply. Others pick up peach and grapefruit on the palate. It seems to be a wine with everything but tasting – as though looking – through your bride’s wedding veil. The mystery is still there. And that’s the surprise and, for me, the pleasantry.
It will not replace Sancerre in my racks (We all have our preferences) but I can see myself getting more bottles of AVA Grace Sauvignon Blanc. Enjoy it as you would any other. Reward yourself with a glass picnic-side or ending the day as the sun goes down. Live Gracefully! (there goes that “happy talk” again). And, for Jane and Bill, this is your Sauvignon Blanc for the Yacht Club.
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TECH SPECS & ETC.
AVA Grace Vineyards
Livermore & Ripon CA.
TA: 6.7 g/L
RS: 3.7 g/L
Material refers to “California’s Central Coast AVA”. The label, however, identifies “California” as its appellation.