It seems to me that lovers of Sauvignon blanc come in two types; those who love the grassy style popularized by New Zealand or those who prefer the mineral-driven version from France. It should come as no surprise that I love minerality in my wine and lean toward the French style. However, my favorite Sauvignon blancs are much rarer, heralding from Oregon and Washington!
For the most part, the wines from both states have sent the cat pee and grass packing back to New Zealand in favor of piquant aromatics and flavors. Tart citrus and ripe tropical fruit notes elegantly hover over mineral-driven acidity and salinity. Pacific Northwest winemakers are utilizing various tools in their toolbox to enhance their Sauvignon blanc offerings, such as fermenting in some neutral oak and lees stirring. Some are also allowing a portion of their wine to go through full malolactic fermentation (malo, for short). All these techniques contribute additional aromas, texture, and body to the finished wine.
Spencer Spetnagel, the winemaker at Durant Vineyards, used all three of the above methods when making the Lark Sauvignon blanc. He destemmed the entire lot, then fermented a third of the grapes in neutral French oak and the remainder in stainless steel. All the juice went through malo and spent ten months on the lees with regular stirring. In the end, Spencer achieved a lovely balance between the acidity and fruit, and a broad, textured mouthfeel that enveloped my entire mouth with each sip.
Michele Francisco, a founder and regular contributor to Winerabble, a blog primarily about Pacific Northwest wines, is living the dream in Portland, Oregon. Her passion leads some to believe she's got wine running through her veins. Contact Michele at firstname.lastname@example.org & be sure to visit her online portfolio at www.michelefrancisco.com.