Napa Valley is not the first place that comes to mind when I think of Sauvignon Blanc. But in cooler corners of the region, the grape does well, producing wines that can be both generous and fresh, often with some oak aging to round them off. Mondavi’s Fumé Blancs, as its Sauvignons are called, are perhaps the best-known examples of this style.
One that’s lesser known but worth trying is Rombauer Vineyards’ 2017 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. This family-owned winery has been around for almost four decades, producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay. It started making Sauvignon Blanc four years ago.
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The grapes are sourced from four vineyards in Napa, and 90 percent of the juice for the 2017 was fermented in stainless steel, with the remainder in used oak barrels. The latter provide not so much an “oaky” quality to the wine, which you would expect in a California Chardonnay, but “weight and texture,” as Richie Allen, Rombauer’s director of viticulture and winemaking, explains it.
Not surprisingly, the $24 wine weighs in at an ample 14.4 percent ABV, according to the label, which is not uncommon for Napa Sauvignons. But it doesn’t feel ponderous. Refreshing acidity combines with notes of grapefruit, tropical fruit, and citrus rind, along with a good deal of spice and a touch of vanilla on the finish.
Among other things, it will pair well with full-flavored fish, as it did with grilled swordfish I made the other night marinated with fresh oregano, parsley, lemon, olive oil, and garlic. I was also reminded of one of the keys to getting the full flavors out of most white wines, which is not to drink them too cold, and this one opened up beautifully as it warmed up.
There’s a cool fun fact associated with Romabauer, too. It turns out that Irma Rombauer, author of the iconic American cookbook, “The Joy of Cooking,” was the great-aunt of Rombauer Vineyards’ founder, Koerner Rombauer.