Sauvignon Blanc might have more recognizable aliases around the winemaking world than any other white variety. A crisp, bone-dry Sancerre from France’s Loire Valley is actually a Sauv Blanc, and so is that creamy white Bordeaux (with a splash of Sémillon). South African versions have a rep for sophistication, while New Zealand bottles are known as simple but zesty sippers. California has leaned more toward the NZ style for some time, leaving many connoisseurs to seek out other whites.
Recently, though, West Coast producers, especially in Napa and Sonoma, have been giving Sauvignon Blanc, in both the vineyard and the cellar, the degree of attention that it takes to make a head-turning wine. These nuanced and age-worthy wines are being dubbed “Super Sauvignons,” and getting snapped up by collectors looking to round out their cellars.
While there’s renewed interest in age-able whites, these high-quality Sauv Blancs aren’t entirely new for the West Coast. Napa Valley’s Spottswoode has been focusing on the grape since 1984. “It was my mom’s favorite wine,” says president Beth Novak Milliken. “Her love for the grape has always shaped our approach,” Which includes great vineyard sources (with the potential to be as expensive as any planted to Cabernet), meticulous farming, vinifying small lots in a mix of vessels (French oak, for instance, or concrete eggs), and putting in the labor to build body, structure, and age-worthiness, with regular stirring of the lees.
Vineyard stats confirm that high-end Sauvignon Blancs are trending: In the last two decades, its vine plantings in Napa County (where land isn’t cheap) have grown by about 40 percent. Milliken couldn’t be happier. “As a vintner, it’s exciting when there’s attention for a varietal you love,” she says. “Ten or 15 years ago, there weren’t many Sauvignon Blancs being made in a manner that showed this grape’s true potential. Now, I look around and see really interesting [versions].”
Here are 11 new ones that will make you pour out whatever other white wines you were drinking before.
Accendo Cellars 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
A second iteration for Napa’s Araujo family, Accendo is making top-notch Sauvignon Blanc a priority, with the help of consulting winemaker Michel Rolland and viticulturist Steve Matthiasson. This vintage—made in a mix of new and used French oak, concrete and stainless-steel drums, and aged sur lie—is an exquisite, complex example of the best Napa can produce. A spiced sachet of aromas includes fragrant jasmine, guava and hints of vanilla, and an orchardful of citrus (grapefruit, tangerine, lime zest) is rounded out by peach flavors, with vivid tension balanced by elegant creaminess.
Acumen 2018 Peak Sauvignon Blanc, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley
A burst of citrus aromas opens on this mountain SB from Acumen, with exotic yuzu and lemongrass wrapping around the variety’s familiar white blossoms. Bright green melon joins grapefruit and lime flavors with a delicate balance of oyster-shell minerality and satisfying, mouth-filling weight.
Acumen 2018 Peak Sauvignon Blanc, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley
Cliff Lede 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
Consider this minerally beauty from Cliff Lede the bargain in the world of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Fermented in a combination of oak, stainless steel and concrete eggs, it’s both complex and vibrant. Opening with earthy limestone under white blossom and nectarine aromas, it continues the stony theme with a streak of minerality focusing the palate and tart mandarin and lime zest layered with an herbal quality.
Cardinale 2019 Intrada Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
This Bordeaux-leaning white from Cardinale, with 2 percent Sémillon splashed in, owes its rich mouthfeel and creamy texture to a mix of vessels: stainless steel, concrete eggs, and neutral and new French oak puncheons, stirred once a week for five months on the lees. Floral aromatics lead, with hints of vanilla, lemongrass, stone fruit and almond, while it’s lovely creaminess is tempered by bright, citrus-forward acids.
Gamble Family Vineyards 2017 Heart Block Sauvignon Blanc, Yountville, Napa Valley
Sauvignon has a longstanding place in Tom Gamble’s heart, born of tasting in France. This Heart Block, from a small plot of his vineyards, quite literally in the middle of Napa Valley is planted to Sauvignon Musque from the Loire Valley and a cutting from Bordeaux. It was aged for 18 to 20 months in French oak (50 percent new) and bottled unfiltered (boldly, in clear glass, celebrating its barest hint of haze). Tell-tale oak spice aromas underlie exuberant lemon blossom, tart lime zest, green melon, and Asian pear, all very slightly honeyed. On the palate, white peach unfolds with tons of concentrated citrus, from pink grapefruit and lemon to mandarin, lingering long on the finish.
Kenzo Estate 2019 Asatsuyu Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
This compelling Sauv Blanc from Kenzo Estate—including 9 percent Sémillon and employing 50 percent oak and 50 percent stainless—has winemaking legend Heidi Barrett and viticulture star David Abreu behind it. The wine’s name—aSatsuyu means morning dew—is apt, conjuring the white blossom, lemongrass and fresh herb aromas, mingling with honeyed stone fruit and wet stones. Juicy peach flavors are balanced by puckery citrus, delivered across the palate with texture and tension. Rumor has it that this is a favorite of chef Thomas Keller.
Lail Vineyards 2017 Georgia Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
From a postage-stamp (three-acre), dry-farmed vineyard in Yountville, this gorgeous Lail Sauvignon, made by Philippe Melka, was fermented and aged in 100 percent new French Oak. This wine has been one of the pioneers of this style in California. Spicy jasmine aromas pop over exotic citrus and notes of white nectarine, while complexity unfolds with layers of grapefruit, peach, and creamy lemon, its impressive weight cut with vibrant acidity.
Merry Edwards 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley
Otherwise known for outstanding vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs, Merry Edwards was an early Sonoma pioneer on the sophisticated Sauvignon Blanc front. This aromatic, barrel-fermented beauty (18 percent new oak, with lees stirred twice a week) leads with a gamut of fruit: apple, tropicals, gooseberry, stone fruit. A full-bodied palate is layered with some exotic notes—guava and lemongrass—along with tangerine and lively lime zest.
Rudd 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley
Vibrant and fresh, this complex mountain Sauvignon from Rudd (employing a mix of neutral and new French oak and concrete eggs) opens with oyster shell notes, delicate blossoms, resiny herbs, and lemongrass aromatics. Mandarin and grapefruit, hints of tropical and stone fruit contrast with a savory salinity. A kick of lime zest comes through on the very long and satisfying finish.
Spottswoode 2019 Sauvignon Blanc
Using fruit from about 180 separate lots from both Napa and Sonoma counties, this new, superb vintage from Spottswoode sets a high bar for Sauvignon. Fresh aromas conjure an ocean breeze carrying lemongrass, honeysuckle, Asian pear and herbs. The complex palate manages both the creamy and the vibrant ends of the lemon spectrum, the gamut of citrus joining forces with white peach and stony minerality, all with mouth-filling textures and beautiful tension.
St. Supéry 2018 Dollarhide Estate Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
The elegant 2018 Sauvignon from St. Supéry (combining stainless steel with 17 percent new French oak, five months on the lees) delivers a lot of deliciousness for the money. Aromas of apricot compote join lemon blossom, almond, honeyed grapefruit and a tiny bit of toasty oak on the nose, followed by ripe peach and tropical flavors melding into creamy citrus.