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Sip into California’s ‘other’ white wine

Crisp and zippy: Wine columnist Edward Deitch enjoys a classy Napa sauvignon blanc.
/ Source: TODAY

If you haven’t tried a sauvignon blanc from California lately, now is a terrific time to do so. There seem to be more good sauvignons to choose from in a variety of styles and a range of prices than ever before, and I’ve been enjoying a number of them in recent weeks.

It’s easy to make the case for sauvignon blanc. It is, in my judgment, the most versatile of the well-known white wine varieties, far more so than chardonnay in terms of food matches, although chardonnay remains the more popular wine.

Sauvignon blanc will pair well with just about any simple fish or chicken dish with the exception of those with rich cream sauces. And, compared with chardonnay, I think you tend to get more for your money with sauvignon; you’ll find plenty of good wines for $15 to $20 or so, although some top wines are now in the $30 range.

California sauvignons reflect a range of styles, from racy, stainless steel-fermented wines that remind me of those from New Zealand and Chile, for example, to the rounder, slightly creamier style that comes from oak aging that you might find in Bordeaux, to those somewhere in between, such as the mineral-rich wines from France’s Loire Valley.

As with most California wines, the sauvignons tend to be a little bigger and a bit richer, with slightly more alcohol than their counterparts. Yet many of them are at once elegant and refreshing.

One standout from California is the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc from St. Supéry Vineyards in the Napa Valley. This $23 wine, among the first of the ’07s to be released, is a delicious, crisp sauvignon made in that piercing New Zealand style, with zippy lime and pink grapefruit, white peach, pineapple and floral notes. I can just imagine it with grilled or broiled fish, shellfish, sushi or herbed chicken, or as a refreshing aperitif as the warmer months approach.

St. Supéry has been growing grapes in the Rutherford area of Napa since the early 1980s when a French winemaking family, the Skallis, started to plant grapes there. The Skallis also make wine in the south of France and on the French island of Corsica, where the family emigrated from Algeria in the early 1960s.

Edward Deitch is the recipient of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Best Multimedia Writing. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at