Where Sauvignon Blanc Shines

WINE COUNTRY TABLE: With Recipes that Celebrate California’s Sustainable Harvest

By Janet Fletcher
Photographs by Robert Holmes and Sara Remington
In collaboration with Wine Institute

Where Sauvignon Blanc Shines

Lake County’s reputation as a source for well-priced Sauvignon Blanc continues to climb as growers home in on the best sites for this variety. The grape loves the plentiful sunlight the county’s high elevation provides, assuring ripeness and the development of tropical-fruit and citrus aromas, while cool evenings preserve the crisp acidity that makes Sauvignon Blanc so refreshing.

“Lake County has diurnal swings that other regions can’t duplicate,” says Christian Ahlmann of Six Sigma Ranch & Winery. The difference between daytime high and nighttime low temperature can reach more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius) in summer in some areas, as afternoon breezes sweep down off the mountains. This natural daily cool-down helps extend the growing season, producing more complex flavors and balance in both grapes and wine.

Sauvignon Blanc grown in cooler climates tends to have grassy or herbaceous aromas; in hot regions, it loses its steely backbone. Lake County’s high-elevation vineyards deliver the climatic middle ground: abundant sunlight that translates to thick skins and generosity of fruit but brisk acidity thanks to the moderating effect of nearby Clear Lake.

Lake County’s Big Valley District AVA, where most of the county’s Sauvignon Blanc vines are planted, has predominantly alluvial soil and yields relatively lush wine with pineapple and guava aromatics. But some growers are finding another rewarding spot for Sauvignon Blanc at higher elevations, moving their plantings from the fertile valley to the foothills and slopes of the High Valley and Kelsey Bench AVAs, where rocky volcanic soils bring stingier yields but racier acids.

Thanks to the rising prestige and price for Lake County Sauvignon Blanc, wineries outside the county who relied on it to lower the cost of their blends may have to look elsewhere. Embraced by Lake County vintners, the grape that dominates France’s Loire Valley has found another comfortable home. Says Ahlmann, “Sauvignon Blanc practically grows itself in Lake County.”

Wine Country Table bookCredit © Wine Country Table: With Recipes that Celebrate California’s Sustainable Harvest by Wine Institute, Rizzoli, 2019

Click here to purchase a copy of Wine Country Table.


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