Tag Archives: sauvignon blanc

The legend of Fume Blanc

One of the reasons I love wine is its combination of history, geography, biology, chemistry and marketing. Yes, marketing. Though many romanticize about wine in its purest form, with what’s inside the bottle marketing itself, the fact is wine is a beverage that sees plenty of marketing – through traditional marketing channels, wine publications and even pop-culture (remember Merlot’s demise after Sideways?).

The original bottle look for Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc
The original bottle look for Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc

One of my favorite stories in the marketing world of wine is that of Fume Blanc. In the late 1960s, Sauvignon Blanc suffered a negative reputation. It was too sweet, or too grassy, poorly made, hard to pronounce, and generally avoided by many wine drinkers. About this time, the late, great Robert Mondavi had an opportunity to produce some promising Sauvignon Blanc. Though he knew it would be delicious, he also wanted to sell it, and labeling it as Sauvignon Blanc may not do the trick. Taking a cue from the Sauvignon Blanc-saturated region of Pouilly Fume in France, Mondavi labeled his wine Fume Blanc and used that name for his SB, which was dry-fermented and aged in oak barrels.

Since you’ve most likely seen a bottle of Fume Blanc, you probably know that this marketing decision paid off and easily accounts for Sauvignon Blanc’s popularity today. Mondavi did not trademark the term, so other wineries jumped on the bandwagon, crafting Sauvignon Blanc in the same style and using the Fume Blanc term. These days, Sauvignon Blanc enjoys a stellar reputation and is proudly displayed on labels in California. But many, particularly those established wineries with a few decades under their belt, still use the Fume Blanc moniker for their Sauvignon Blanc. What’s the difference? Though there are plenty of exceptions (as there always are), Fume Blanc typically sees a bit of oak and displays rounder, richer, more melon-like flavors. Sauvignon Blanc aims to bring out the grassy and sharper citrus aromatics of the varietal.

The California wine industry owes much to Robert Mondavi, but the story of Fume Blanc remains one of my favorites to show this legend’s bright mind and influence on California wine. It’s spring, so pick up a bottle of Fume Blanc and toast the man who brought it to life!


Fried Chicken goes with…

Well, warm weather is here, really here and I am feeling a bit like fried chicken and a salad on the side, of course. Today, I enjoyed lunch with two Wine.com pals of mine (Anne and Alma) and was thinking of what would work with fried chicken. Both Alma and I order the fried chicken sandwich, which was pretty good. Anne got the mussels, which she enjoyed 14_04_01 1130 Book Signing_Coqueta_5000_Blogimmensely. Since I was in a meeting mode, I didn’t have wine at lunch. Nonetheless, I’d opt for an Oregon Pinot Gris with what Alma and I had ordered. It would also have done well with Anne’s mussels. King Estate Pinot Gris comes to mind, though I really love the idea of matching this dish with one of my favorite Napa Valley Sauvignon BlancsHonig. This picture is the 2013, but every vintage is winner! #pinotgris #kingestate #friedchicken #mussels #pinotgrigio @wine_com

The Odd Couple: Strip Steak & Sancerre

Wine people seem to always ask other wine people to recall their most memorable wine, or their most exciting wine pairing . I always falter with the first, being lucky enough to have had many an amazing wine memories, but the second I have nailed down. I was in Genoa, Italy with my now-husband after we’d just missed our outbound train to Nice. We had just learned that driving in Italy has a learning curve and we were very far down on it. We found a hotel nearby, wandered the streets and settled on a lovely little restaurant, where we found a most agreeable sommelier. Ordering the local steak, he suggested we pair it with a Sauvignon Blanc from Alto-Adige. Sorry? Don’t you have a more suitable suggestion that might be RED? He asked us to trust him on this. To this day, that pairing is my most memorable. Simple, grilled, local meat and a delicious, local white wine. Not the pairing you would expect, but it was one that wowed. So it makes sense that the other night I found a similar delight.

After the initial sticker shock of realizing how much I just spent on grass-fed NY strip steak at Whole Foods, my husband set out to find a suitable big, blustery Cabernet worthy of drinking with $50 steaks. But the Cabernet was just making the cut for me. So I poured some of the Sancerre we’d brought home and voila. A match. The Sancerre on its own had faltered a little too close to all grass, no fruit and a bit too acidic. One sip after the steak, the fruit coated my mouth, the acidity cut through the fat of the steak and the wine was twice as good as before. It brought me back to that time in Genoa, nearly 10 years ago, and reminded me that food and wine pairing is not a science, it is an art. And one NY strip may taste well with a Cab, but mine was shining with my Sancerre.

Staff Pick: Hall Helps Ease the Pain of Black Eyed Peas Super Bowl Half-Time Show

Wine: Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Reviewer: Alma Leon – Wine Buyer
Paired with:  Super Bowl party fare – Guacamole, pretzels, dips & pizza etc.
Rating: 3 stars

Review:   The smartest thing I did yesterday was to take this wine to yesterday's Super Bowl party.  This VERY good California Sauvignon Blanc helped me make it through a rough 15 minutes.  Don’t let the 3 stars fool you,   I don’t hand out very many 4 or 5 stars, so 3 stars to me means a fantastic wine that I can enjoy without  having to worry about my wine budget.  It’s my version of “Two thumbs up!”  The best thing about this wine is that it proves that great Sauvignon Blanc can be produced in California.  My biggest complaint about domestic Sauvignon Blanc is that it can be extremely tropical on the nose, thanks to our warm climate.  Meaning it can be difficult to pair with food and a bit like standing next to a person with too much perfume on a crowded elevator.  Hall has managed delicate grapefruit, guava and lemon aromas in a medium-bodied wine.  There is a creaminess to it that ends with fresh acidity.  In short, it is well-balanced and likely to impress a wide variety of palates.  Although I went for the gusto and tried it with party food,  I could see this going great with lump crab meat on a buttered roll or even gnocchi in a creamy white sauce.

Read more of my reviews on my Wine.com community page

Perfect Spring Sippers

Though Spring has been here for a couple of months, it certainly has not felt like it all the time… particularly in the NW. However, temps are finally getting up there and I'm ready to pop open some wines that fit the weather. Style wise, for whites, we're talking Light & Crisp. Reds mean Light & Fruity.

In whites, three perfect choices are Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino and Chenin Blanc. My picks are:

Montes Leyda Sauvignon Blanc 2008
I recently arranged this to be the white for a rehearsal dinner party in April. People who thought they did not like white wine – or were usually beer drinkers – LOVED this wine. As did I. There was not a drop left by the end of the night (as you could see by some of the moves on the dance floor). It is wonderfully aromatic; citrus-driven, a touch of grass and herbal notes, and so deliciously crisp. The Leyda region in Chile is very cool and this wine shows how great the region is at Sauvignon Blanc.

Bonny Doon Ca' Del Solo Albarino 2008
I said it once, I'll say it again: I've not yet met a Bonny Doon wine I didn't like. And I mean really like. This Albarino is a perennial favorite. Even in the cold weather it's a delicious aperitif or pairing with seafood. But it just tastes so delicious in the spring. It's what I'd call CLEAN. Bright apple fruits, crisp backbone, citrus and some herb notes. Made with Biodynamic farming, which may be from where its sense of purity comes.

Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2009
Another favorite, particularly for the price. Chenin Blanc is a grape that South Africa does VERY well and Mulderbosch is makes a classic version. Again, we're talking Light & Crisp, so you're going to get citrus, and bright acid. But you also get some riper tropical fruits in this one, with kick of spice, too.

Moving on to red recommendations…
Beaujolais, Pinot Noir & Cotes-du-Rhone are my top wines for Spring. Some of my picks include:

Duboeuf Fleurie Domaine des Quatre Vents 2008
Do not be fooled – Beaujolias, particularly "cru" Beaujolais is good stuff! Duboeuf is a classic producer of Beaujolais, the large region in the south of Burgundy producing bright wines from the Gamay grape grown on granite soils. When you talk Beaujolais, you're talking bright red fruit, some spice and acidity, but the key term for me here is bright. It's a red wine that is light and almost crisp. Perfect for warmer weather and light foods.

Escarpment Over the Edge Pinot Noir 2008
I love this wine. Mainly because I was so impressed when I tasted it and found out it was under $15! This is a "savory" style Pinot Noir, with lots of berry fruit, some sweet spice and some spicy spice, as well as a touch of dried herbs. Just lovely all over. Good finish, great for a juicy burger or some grilled salmon.

For my Cotes-du-Rhone, I have two picks. And they are both a bit more pricey, but totally worth it I think as they are from Cairanne. Cairanne is my favorite "villages" of the CDR and I think it will the next "cru" (the way Gigondas, Vacqueyras & Vinsobres were upgraded). Your choices are:

Dom. de L'Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Cuvee Prestige 2007 or Domaine Alary Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne 2007
Both wines are full of upfront fruit and sweet spice. The Oratoire St Martin has quite a bit of Mourvedre in the blend, so you will get more peppery spice notes and some earthy tones. The Alary (which I am very partial to) is more on the rich, sweet spice side, with a silky smooth texture. Either way, you're getting great grill-friendly wines that are perfect for spring.

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