Happy Canyon, Santa Barbara County
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Often our Sauvignon Blanc moves across the palate with bat-like urgency, a nimble cutting path driven by racy acidity. This 2017 bottling cuts too, but in a more rounded and graceful kind of way than our norm: if you can picture the way a duck cleaves water when it lands, that rounded initial impact and gliding momentum might paint a picture of the difference here.
Some of the more laid-back nature of this bottling comes from our tinkering. Our Sauvignon Blanc drinks so, so well after 2-4 years in bottle, unfortunately when most people have drunk it already. We love the powerful, dense Sauvignon Blanc that our low-yielding cordon-trained vines provide, but out of curiosity about how we might open it up a bit, we experimented with blending in small amounts of fruit sourced from the more fruitful cane-pruned vines planted nearby. The effect is subtle (with the vineyard elements remaining the same), but meaningful in terms of the drinking window.
Before, our Sauvignon Blanc needed time for the fruit to expand into the structure of the wine, whereas this 2017 is truly drinking great right now. There’s some cushion of fruit with elongated curves and more forgiving edges, but no shortage of acidity in the prickly fresh finish. Expect the familiar crunchy Asian pear, green apple and mineral elements of our McGinley, but also enjoy the pungency of floral fragrance in the 2017—with some air the citrus blossom aroma gets downright heady!
Blend: 100% Sauvignon Blanc | Alc: 13% | Vinification: Barrel Fermented in Neutral French Oak | Barrel Aging: 9 Months | Total Production 529 cases
Sauvignon blanc has been dear to my heart since my start as a winemaker. When I was studying at UC Davis in the mid 70s I’d often make a jaunt to Berkeley to browse the shelves at Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, and I’d often bring home northern Rhone syrahs and Loire sauvignon blancs to reflect on. Those bottles made indelible impressions during those formative years. So, a few years later when I planted my first vineyard in Ojai, I chose to plant syrah and sauvignon blanc.
I’ve been making sauvignon blanc from McGinley Vineyard since 1998 (back when it was called Westerly) and we’ve farmed the same two little blocks since. The site provides an exceptionally gorgeous example of the varietal, thanks largely to soils that would be abysmal for just about any other crop. In some sections the topsoil is as shallow as a foot and a half, with serpentine rock and fractured shale underneath. The wines from these poor soils are amazingly flavorful because the vines sense the scarcity of resources and, fearing death, direct all their energy toward maturing fruit rather than growing leaves (that way their genes may persevere).
I’ve been lucky to have connected with so many people who love our sauvignon blanc’s unique style. It’s a dazzling drink to pair with fresh cuisine—the folks at Chez Panisse have offered it on their wine list for years—I love it with oysters, or some good bread and goat cheese. As for aging, I begin to like our sauvignon blanc after a couple of years in bottle, though the 1998 is still drinking great, so this is a worthy white to exercise your cellar discipline!