Posted by: tomciocco | December 18, 2012


A post of oddities…For whatever reason, Jen and I don’t drink a lot of Sauvignon Blanc, from anywhere. Tonight we did. We also don’t drink a great deal of wine from California, and this evening we did that too, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a wine from Santa Barbara’s Santa Ynez Valley, let alone a Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc’s terrestrial sweet spots – The Loire, Bordeaux, South Africa, and New Zealand – within themselves can produce some stylistically diverse wines, not to mention how widely the results can differ each from the other. The weather, the soil, the local traditions, and the styles directly pursued by the winemakers in all of these areas all conspire to coil the end results dramatically this way or that, but there is one element that Sauvignon Blanc seems to need to reach its potential, and that is the simple compound of calcium carbonate, A.K.A. chalk, or in geological terms, limestone, and almost without limit, the more the better.

But with all of the many blessings that Gaia has bestowed on California in terms of soil, sadly, limestone is not one of them (at least in places that are suitable for viticulture). There are however, often near the sea (limestone is derived from ancient marine shell sediments), and in this case in the Santa Ynez Valley, just north of Santa Barbara, where California can offer Sauvignon Blanc the chalk it craves. And then there’s that famous Central Coast climate, with banks of cool and damp air, but still with the endless buckets of all of that California sun. This particular vineyard site is south facing (extra warm and sunny), and Stolpman uses only minimal irrigation, forcing the vines to dig deeply into the chalky soil for their water. Which brings us to the final “oddity”, and that’s what really good California Sauvignon Blanc actually is. Too much of what’s made in The Golden State is planted in all the wrong places, and it just ain’t no good. This one is –  one of the few outside of those “sweet spots” that show a new perspective on Sauvignon Blanc.

I paired this big but balanced white with a light cream of butternut squash soup with curry and orange, and then a good old, homey American noodle/pea/mushroom/etc. tuna casserole (with a few little twists).

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Stolpman Vineyards Santa Ynez Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Pale, green-tinged, “white gold” color. Pretty but pronounced nose of flinty minerality, dried white flowers, white pepper, fresh hops, lime, yellow cherry, and gooseberry fruit, and subtle notes of toasted wheat and fresh cream. In the mouth the wine is big, ripe, generous, and intense, but is still tautly structured, with a clean, piercing acidity, spearing fresh and tidy fruit flavors of grapefruit, green apple, and Anjou pear, with clear notes of bitter herbs, vanilla bean and vinegar rice supporting. Long and fresh almondy finish.



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