It’s Summer! Drink Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Happy Summer, Winos! Those of us who live in the Phoenix, Arizona area have been experiencing summer for a solid 3 months. From now until September, we accept “Excessive Heat Warnings” of over 110 degrees as just another summer day.

Whether you are experiencing excessive heat or just regular ol’ “hot and humid”, nothing goes better with heat than refreshing alcoholic beverages. And I presume that wine is your alcoholic beverage of choice. One of the most refreshing wines to sip on by the pool or beach is Sauvignon Blanc.

Q: Is “Sauvignon Blanc” a grape varietal or a region?

 

A: Grape varietal.

Wines made from primarily one grape varietal are often referred to by their varietal. E.g. [the bracketed words are not usually stated.] “That bottle of [wine made from] Sauvignon Blanc [grapes] has a lovely balance of fruit flavors and minerality.”

Like many grapes, Sauvignon Blanc can result in a large range of flavor and style in the bottle depending on where it is grown and how it is made. A Sauvignon Blanc from France, for example, has a different flavor profile than that of California. Sure, there are common characteristics across the board, but understanding the differences helps us refine our palates. Here’s a quick look at the different flavor profiles between each of the key regions that produce Sauvignon Blanc.

Note: There are, of course, more regions that make Sauvignon Blanc. For the sake of blog posting length, I’m just covering these primary SB growing areas!

General Characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc:

Dry, white wine that is typically light to medium bodied and has an herbal undertone. From there, the wine can have fruity, floral, and/or smoky characteristics.

France

  • Region: Loire Valley
  • On the Label: “Sancerre” or “Pouilly-Fumé”
  • Typical Flavors: Herbal, Smokey (gunflint)
  • Typical Characteristics: Crisp, Focused, Elegant

WINE-KNOW PAUSE: Ok – are you thinking… “Gunflint’?! What the heck kind of flavor is that?!” Well, think smoky, but that sort of metallic smokiness that you can smell after shooting a cap. This is caused by the kind of soil/gravel that the vines grow in!

  • Region: Bordeux
  • On the Label: Graves
  • Note: White wines from Graves are a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and another grape called Semillon. This changes the flavor profile quite a bit.
  • Typical Flavors: Honey, Minerals
  • Typical Characteristics: Rich, Round, Bright

Note about “On the Label”: European/French wines don’t always include the grape varietal (“Sauvignon Blanc”) on the label, so look for a white wine with these words on the label. They are regions that make white wine with Sauvignon Blanc.

New Zealand

  • Region: Hawkes Bay, Marlborough
  • On the Label: Sauvignon Blanc
  • Typical Flavors: Grapefruit, Limes, Herbs, Melons
  • Typical Characteristics: Crisp, Focused, Sharp

(I know – this is quite a range! But think green fruit and herbs)

California

  • Region: Napa Valley, Sonoma
  • What to look for on the label: “Sauvignon Blanc” or “Fumé Blanc” (<<it’s the same)
  • Typical Flavors: Citrus/Grapefruit, Melon, Herbal
  • Typical Characteristics: Refreshing, Vibrant, Clean

Chile

  • Region: Casablanca Valley, Maipo Valley
  • Typical Flavors: Melon, Floral
  • Typical Characteristics: Light, Fresh, Some Minerality
  • Note: Can be made from a different and similar grape called “Sauvignon Vert” or “Sauvignonasse”, but labeled Sauvignon Blanc.

South Africa, Italy, and Austria are also known for producing lovely Sauvignon Blanc.

Go get out there in the hot summer sun and taste the differences between regional Sauvignon Blancs! I think you’ll be quite surprised at how easily you’ll be able to pick up both the commonalities AND the differences. (Of course, Wine Star Services is always happy to help with such comparative wine tastings!)

 

Sauvignon Blanc At A Glance

Sauvignon Blanc At A Glance

 

Divine Wine Sunday: Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon

In my humble Wino opinion, a birthday should always be celebrated with a good bottle of wine. When I first enjoyed this week’s Divine Wine, it was during a birthday celebration with a bunch of friendly Winos. We ordered the bottle, none of us knowing quite what to expect.  We had the obligatory birthday “cheers’ing”….  and then we each took a sip.  Although it was now five years ago, I remember the moment clearly. I took a sip, and then – with the glass still held up in front of my face, I lifted my eyes from the glass and made eye contact with one of the other winos at the table. We held that eye contact for a moment, knowing we were both thinking the same thing. We were both in love…. with the wine.  Since then, I’ve had this wine a number of times and each time, have found myself savoring each sip (or gulp) from my glass.

Divine Wine of the Week: Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon

Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon

Price Range: $15-20 at Costco, Total Wine, and most likely your favorite wine shop.

Wino Assessment: As previously noted, upon the first sip, there was nothing but love for this wine.  It is dry – has that woody/oaky flavor. But not at all chalky.  It also has a bit of that dark fruit flavor (plums, perhaps) that balances the dryness without making it too jammy or sweet.  In a way, this wine goes down like a smooth cup of coffee.  As you enjoy a few sips of the Franciscan Cab, the swirl of flavors are so satisfying that I swear you’ll suddenly start taking smaller sips because you just want it to last longer.

Tasting Notes: Here is what Franciscan Winery says about their Cabernet Sauvignon:

Aromas: Complex and vibrant aromas of red plum, anise, cherry, violets, and tobacco accentuated by notes of black currant, dried herbs, toasted oak, and cocoa.

Flavors: Elegant and supple texture on the palate make the frame for generous flavors of sweet plum and dark cherry, with notes of vanilla and mocha. Silky tannins and well-integrated structure tie together and linger in the finish.

The winery also has a nice write-up of the history of this wine, if you’re interested in reading more.

Franciscan Cab with tasty burger

Franciscan Cab with tasty burger

Divine Wine Bite: So now that you have the wine in hand, what should you eat with it? Cabernets generally have a lot of tannins, which typically make the wine taste a little more bitter (in the same way that dark chocolate might taste bitter), and also makes it taste dry. Because of that, Cabs tend to go well with red meat. The red meat’s protein and fattiness balance the bitter/dryness of the wine.  So try this wine with a nice grilled steak or grilled lamb.  I personally enjoyed it with this delicious burger tonight!

Varietal: Napa Cabs under $30

No, no, Winos.  I’m not talking about taxi cabs in Napa Valley…  I’m talking about Cabernets Sauvignons from Napa Valley!  (Wa-ha-ha.)

I came across the Wine Enthusiast’s recent article on 30 Napa Cabs for Under $30. Since Napa Valley’s Cabernet Sauvignons can be quite expensive, I’m happy to have a list to work through that is more within my budget for wine!  I’m personally willing to spend up to about $14 on a bottle I’m unfamiliar with, but beyond that, I get nervous about buying it if I haven’t already heard the bottle is a delight.  So this list will serve as a nice little guide when I feel the need to buy a “special” bottle of Cab that goes beyond my $14 range!  (Note there are a few on the list that are under $14!) Anyway, I figured if this article was something that I’m bookmarking, that some of you might like to have it handy as well!

I have only enjoyed one of the 30 wines on the list… and I have to say, I loved it.  And when I love a bottle, I remember clearly the festivities (major or minor) that surround it… Off of this list, it was the Franciscan – I was with close friends in Jacksonville Beach, FL at Casa Marina Restaurant celebrating a birthday.  All of us around the table were Winos and all of us enjoyed this bottle so much that we got two. (Not that that is all that unusual.) Since that time, I have had it with some of my favorite co-workers/friends (including loyal reader, “CA Wino”) upon visiting the Jacksonville area again at Eleven South Bistro.  So if any of my Jax friends are reading, and dining at these locales, get the Franciscan when you go! I’m sure it is available at many restaurants around the country, but the Franciscan accompanies good memories of great company during my Florida days.  (Note: The Franciscan is available at Costco at a great price – $18.99 – whereas it is normally in the mid to upper $20’s elsewhere.)

Ok, so enough of my oh so happy Wino memories… here’s the list.  The article has some more detail for the first ten Cabs listed, so I highly encourage you to check it out!  The number in front of each bottle is the wine’s rating.  (More to follow on wine ratings on a future Thoroughly Wine Know Thursday posting!) Let me know if you’ve tried any… you may see some of these on Divine Wine Sunday as I work my way through tasting them!!

Wine Enthusiast’s Top 10 Napa Cabs for under $30

93 Conn Creek 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $25

92 Edge 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $20

90 Fuse 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $22

92 B Side 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $25

91 Martin Ray 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $25

91 Franciscan 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $27 (again, available at Costco for less!)

91 Robert Mondavi 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $28

91 Black Stallion 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $25

90 St. Supéry 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $30

91 Oberon 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $22

 

20 More Great Values in Napa Cab

90 Buehler 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $25

90 Decoy 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $25

90 Evolve 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Mount Veeder). Price: $30

90 Q 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $18

90 Summers 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Calistoga). Price: $26

89 Napa Family Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Best Buy. Price: $10

89 Trailhead 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $30

88 Aquinas 2007 Philosopher’s Blend Reserve Red (Napa Valley). Price: $25

88 Ca’ Momi 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $25

88 Cameron Hughes 2007 Lot 287 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $20

88 Goyette 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $24

88 Mario Perelli-Minetti 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $23

87 C&B 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Best Buy. Price: $12.

87 Cameron Hughes 2008 Lot 290 Cabernet Sauvignon (Spring Mountain). Price: $22

87 Heritance 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $28

87 Napa Station 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $22

87 Newton 2009 Red Label Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa County). Price: $28

87 Round Pond 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $30

86 Avalon 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $18

86 Castle Rock 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). Price: $18

 

[Source: Wine Enthusiast Magazine]

Divine Wine Sunday: Kirkland Signature Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

Happy Divine Wine Sunday!!… or Monday. I seem to have a rough time getting my post completed on Sunday… but hey, wine is divine no matter the day, right?

One of my favorite places to shop is Costco. Yes, I am just one person, but I have an enormous refrigerator and lots of cabinet space. So buying the 5 gallon jug of dish soap or 24 cans of tomato sauce or 20 breasts of frozen chicken is not really a problem. And guess what else isn’t a problem… the wine section! Despite Costco’s packaging of most products in at least a two-pack and up to a gazillion-pack, they do offer regular old single bottles of wine for excellent Costco prices.

I don’t often buy the same bottles of wine from wine stores – primarily because I like to try something new, and there are so many wines out there to taste. But Costco, in all its glory, has a relatively small selection of wines that I find very enjoyable for a very reasonable price. That’s their thing… offer less of a selection of wine, but keep the value high. Of the “Kirkland” labeled wines, I have found all that I’ve tried to be quite tasty, and I’m repeatedly purchase the the same wines from the warehouse. So today, I am highlighting the one that I consistently look for on every Costco adventure.

Divine Wine of the Week: Kirkland Signature Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA

Kirkland Signature Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

Price Range: $12.99 at Costco!

Wino Assessment: I generally like Cabernet Sauvignons quite a bit. And this one is among my favorite “every day wines”. (Yes, that will go in the glossary when I get around to making it.) To me, it is medium-bodied but full of “ripe fruit” flavors. What do I mean by that… I’m not totally sure… working through these words myself. It isn’t tart but it isn’t overly fruity. It is somewhere in between – perhaps a little cherry-like or plum-like but with a tinge of earthiness (which I love). I hate to admit this in words on the world wide web, but it is not hard for me to finish one of these bottles off in one evening…. for me, it’s very drinkable. (Wow – if that isn’t an ambiguous wino assessment, I don’t know what is!)

The Grape…

Cabernet Sauvignon. I feel like we have talked about this grape already on Wino to Wine Know, but apparently we have not – not on Divine Wine Sunday (or Monday) anyway. Cabernet Sauvignon (which I will refer to as “Cab” from hereon out in this post), is one of two of the world’s most popular grapes. (Merlot is the other.) It is a dark-skinned grape variety and it is based out of Bordeaux in France. Cab grapes are typically mixed with other grapes to make a Bordeaux wine, but there are certainly plenty of wines that are 100% (or majority) Cab. This grape has an ability to help a winemaker use the grape to make the wine that s/he wants to make. It is highly dependent on the terroir (the elements associated with the climate and soil and many other factors of where the vines are planted… more on terroir in a future post), and is a good candidate for longer bottle aging (meaning, Cabs may sit in their bottles for years and become one of those wines you save for a special occasion).

An interesting fun fact about Cabernet Sauvignon – its “parent” grapes are believed to be Cabernet Franc (a black grape) and Sauvignon Blanc (a white grape). This development was believed to have happened way back when (that’s an official time period) via some mixture of the two “parent” vines.

The Wine…

Cabernet Sauvignon is a crucial part of French wines, where it is commonly blended with other grapes. Why blend? Well while the Cab provides “structure” and has a lot of tannins, it needs to balanced by other grapes to make the wine interesting. While the French often blend their Cab grapes with others, Napa Valley offers a lot of 100% / majority Cab grape wines. Because of this, the Napa Cabs tend to be “dense, purple-black, jammy and tasting of currants and black cherries.” (The Wine Enthusiast Magazine) I really like Bordeauxs and I really like Cabs, so I guess I’m a winner either way!

Costco doesn’t offer a lot of info about their wines, in particular their Kirkland Signature labels. But they do offer a Costco Wine Blog! (Who knew!?!) Check it out – it shares a bit about what Costco offers in general when it comes to wine. You may be wondering about the Kirkland Signature label. If you’re not a Costco shopper, you should know that “Kirkland” is Costco’s brand name (I believe that is due to their home base of Kirkland, Washington, where one of my favorite Dreamers was born.) According to Serious About Wine, Costco serves as a distributor for small lots of wine and slaps their label on the bottle. (Ok, there’s probably a bit more to it than that…) They are small lots in general with about 2000 cases – which is possibly big for a winery, but small for a major warehouse like Costco. If you check out the post on Serious About Wine, you’ll learn a bit about the distribution methodology that Costco has laid out with regard to the “Kirkland Signature” label.

What does the Costco Wine Blog say about their 2009 Kirkland Signature Napa Cab? (I should note that I’m not sure how official this Costco wine blog is, but it looks pretty decent to me.)

“This is a good mid-week, everyday Napa Cab that’s $12.99 at Costco.And the wine is good, nice for the price, and after some air it started to open up into a fairly decent wine.

Cherry aromas, dark fruit flavors with a little chocolate, medium to full in body, and the finish was nice and smooth. I like Napa Cabs and I hunt for the best at these price points, and this one is definitely a contender. But I just didn’t find anything to push it over the edge. Nice wine, good price. Worth dropping in the cart.

I’m pretty happy with the pairing of my Wino Assessment to the Costco Wine Blog Assessment. At least when I read the Costco Wine Blog, I am thinking, “Yes! That’s what I meant!”

The Regions…

So Cabs are among the most popular grapes to plant in the wine world. But here on this post, I am only going to talk about California since this Cab is from that fine state neighboring my home state of Arizona. Apparently Cabs are the basis fo the “California Cult” wines. What, you ask, is a “California Cult” wine? Well, apparently it was a phrase used in the 1990s that were typically Cabs (but not exclusively Cabs) made in California and typically Napa Valley for which high rollers would pay higher prices than that of Bordeaux’s “first growths” (to put it simply, top ranking wines in Bordeaux). So as you can imagine, Napa loves its Cabs… as does the world of wine drinkers. It is an important grape across the world and will certainly be highlighted on this Wino’s world wide web space in the future!!

Hope you feel like you “Wine Know” more about Costco wine and Napa Cabs!! Have you tried this Costco wine or any of their other Kirkland Signature labels? What did you think!??!

[Source of Wine Knowledge in this post is The Oxford Companion to Wine.]

Divine Wine Sunday: The Franc

First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!  Hope those wine headaches are minimal on this fine first day of the 2012… I’m excited that my first Divine Wine Sunday post is on the January 1st!

Ok, on to business…

So – as a Wino, I do have a general idea of what kinds of wine I like to drink – it is pretty rare that I am unsatisfied with a glass or bottle that I end up with at a restaurant or wine bar… perhaps I’m lucky in my selecting of wines, or perhaps my palate isn’t developed enough to know when what I’m drinking is bad, or perhaps I just stick to what I know I like.  Usually, the only glasses I choose not to finish (or even give back) are those in a slow hotel bar that opts to serve its patrons a glass of wine out of a bottle that was opened two days prior.

Anyway, one thing that is for certain is that if there is a Cabernet Franc on the menu, that is typically my first choice.  This isn’t necessarily because I have loved every Cab Franc I’ve ever had.  But (a) they typically have characteristics that I enjoy in a big wine – dry and earthy with a smooth finish, (b) a Cab Franc wine (i.e. – one that isn’t blended with other grapes or at least not blended much with other grapes) isn’t all that common (from what I’ve seen), and (c) you don’t often see Cab Francs available in restaurants / wine menus.

Now, as a resident of the Valley of the Sun within a walkable distance to a lovely little restaurant and wine bar called 5th and Wine, you might guess that I was delighted to find a Cab Franc on their menu the first time I wined there. And not only was it fun to try, I also really enjoyed it!  And since then, I have really enjoyed it over and over and over again.  (Except during that brief period that they decided to not carry it until enough of us repeat customers cried to our servers.) So here it is…

Divine Wine of the Week: The Franc, Cosentino Winery, Napa Valley

The Franc

The Franc, Cosentino Winery

Price range: $20-30 per bottle at a wine store (I’ve seen it available for sale at Terroir Wine Pub), $10 per glass (at 5th and Wine), $20 per bottle from the Winery

Wino Assessment…

Besides the fact that it has accompanied me many-a-night at 5th and Wine, I enjoy The Franc because it is very dry (meaning, my tongue gets a little chalky when drinking it), but has a smooth finish (meaning, my throat doesn’t feel chalky after a sip).  It completely fills your mouth with flavor with a fine balance between plumminess and earthiness. (Yes, “plumminess” is a word.  Even if there is a red squiggly line telling you otherwise.)  And although it is very dry, that smooth finish allows me to feel like I could drink it all night.  So there’s my Wino assessment… let’s see what the books say…

The Grape…

Lots of people say they like “Cabs” – short for “Cabernet” – but that is usually a references to “Cabernet Sauvignon”.  The OTHER Cabernet is Cabernet Franc.  (Kinda like how pork is the OTHER white meat.)

Cab Franc is a French black grape variety and is usually blended with other grapes in wine making – most often, Cabernet Sauvignon.  It happens to be the “parent grape” to Cab Sauvignon, which was only proved in 1997 via DNA typing.  It buds and matures more than a week earlier than the Cab Sauvignon grape and is also less susceptible to poor weather during harvest.  It is one of the 20 most planted grapes for cultivation in wine. In fact, in parts of the Bordeaux region of France, Cab Franc makes up about 10% of a typical vineyard; because it is more “weather proof” than Cab Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, it is a safer bet for wine makers each year.  (Interesting, right?!… now I like Cab Franc even more – it is risk averse, like me!)

The Wine…

As a wine, the books say that Cab Franc is typically light to medium bodied and sometimes includes herbaceous aromas.  Huh… I would have thought Cab Franc would be described as medium to heavy, but I suppose I related the “boldness” of a wine more to its earthy factor than its fruity factor.

The Franc as described by its winemaker is: “The aromas come out immediately with ripe plum, cherry and clove. Plentiful ripe plum, black cherry and clove notes abound on the palate, followed by a welcome shot of tannin on the smooth finish.” [www.cosentinowinery.com]

So my judgement (as noted in “Wino Assessment” above) was not too far off (I did write that before reading anything else…).  Plum, smooth finish… it’s just that light to medium bodied thing threw me off.

Regions…

France: As of 2000, Cab Franc was France’s 6th most planted black grape variety, especially in the south western regions. It is very commonly used in the Bordeaux blends…

Italy: It is also fairly common in the north east regions of Italy, but not nearly as much as Cab Sauvignon.  Italians may refer to Cab Franc as “Cabernet Frank” or “Bordo”.  It is also increasingly being referred to as “Carmenere” in north east Italy.

The U.S. of A.: Cab Franc has been grown in Cali since the 1960s (way old, dude) and is primarily grown in the Napa and Sonoma counties.  The book says that it is becoming “increasingly fashionable” due to its relative scarcity (did you hear that – I’m part of an increasingly fashionable crowd!).  Besides Cali, it is also grown in Washington State, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York.

Other Random Regions: Cab Franc is also being planted in Hungary, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, and – are you ready for this – China. (Random!!)  I have enjoyed wandering around the wineries of Eger in Hungary, and while I didn’t know they used Cab Franc grapes, I love-Love-LOVED their wines.  (Though the handful of Hungarian wine available in U.S. grocery stores are not representative of what I tasted in Hungary… not even those sold at Trader Joe’s, friends.)

So there you have it – the first Divine Wine on Wino to Wine Know.  I feel like I Wine Know a little more than I did… do you??

[Source for all this fine Wine Knowing in this post unless otherwise stated: The Oxford Companion to Wine]