Six Superb Bay Area Sauvignon Blancs Tailored to Al Fresco Tables

Spottwoods estate vineyards

Sauvignon Blanc—fresh, crisp and aromatic—is a classic summer wine. Its fragrant aromas make it perfect for sipping on its own or for pairing with light warm-weather fare: vegetable dishes, salads, soft cheeses (especially goat), grilled seafood and most shellfish, indeed any fish that would benefit from a squeeze of lemon.

This chameleon grape displays a spectrum of flavors and styles depending on its origin. It can have minerality and a grassy character (typical of the Loire) or burst with bright tropical flavors. Sonoma and Napa produce both types, but the stunning Sauv Blancs from the following six wineries set the benchmark for the Bay.  

CHALK HILL ESTATE — Sauvignon Blanc 2012
By far the brightest-flavored wine, with tangy and exotic notes (nectarine, mango, lime and lemon blossom), Chalk Hill's blend includes Sauvignon Gris and Sauvignon Musqué. A 1,400-acre estate in Sonoma County, Chalk Hill produced an excellent 2012. “With afternoon breezes funneling through the Russian River gap, Sauvignon Blanc thrives here,” says winemaker Lisa Bishop Forbes.

ROBERT MONDAVI WINERY — Fumé Blanc Reserve 2012
Some of California’s oldest Sauvignon Blanc plantings are found at the To Kalon Vineyard in Napa Valley. This old-vine fumé blanc has a profusion of flavors—white peach, passion fruit and fresh verbena flower—as well as minerality and a savory, long finish. “I ferment the wine in 28-percent new French oak,” says winemaker Genevieve Janssens. “It adds roasted almond notes and a textured mouth-feel without overt oakiness.”

PETER MICHAEL WINERY — L’Après-Midi Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Cultivated at up to 1,400 feet on the cool slopes of Mount St. Helena, the higher altitude grapes of this vintage exude a fresh bouquet of white and yellow spring flowers, honeysuckle, white peach and lime. “The signature of L’Après-Midi is its oyster-shell minerality,” says winemaker Nicolas Morlet. “It’s an elegant gastronomic wine with a touch of truffle and a finish of dry apricot.” 

QUIVIRA VINEYARDS AND WINERY — Fig Tree Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2012
From a certified biodynamic vineyard in Dry Creek comes an outstanding wine that reflects its Sonoma terroir with both grassy and tropical expressions of pineapple and passion fruit. Winemaker Hugh Chappelle picks the grapes at different stages of ripeness, which gives the wine complexity and achieves a rich, creamy texture through extended fermentation.

The gracious entrance to the home of Spottswoode estate owner Mary Novak

SPOTTSWOODE  — Sauvignon Blanc 2013
A historic winery dating back to the 1880s, Spottswoode is known for its ripeness and racy acidity. From organic grapes grown at the base of the Mayacamas range in western St. Helena, this vibrant wine has aromas of lime and lemon, and grapefruit on the finish. “The aromatics on our 2013 Sauvignon Blanc are stunning,” says winemaker Aron Weinkauf. 

DUCKHORN VINEYARDS — Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Benefiting from a perfect 2013 growing season, Duckhorn Vineyard’s grapes express crispness and nice acidity with grapefruit and mandarin orange flavors, followed by a flinty minerality. “I see our Sauvignon Blanc as capturing some of the best of the Old and New Worlds,” explains winemaker Renee Ary. “While it has tropical aromas of melon and papaya, on the palate, it is bright and citrusy with a lovely depth and texture.”

A version of this article appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of San Francisco Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Summer Whites.