This is a 100% Sauvignon Blanc, and if you know what the variety smells and tastes like, you’ll have no trouble identifying it, even in a blind tasting. It’s classic California Sauv Blanc, clean, crisply mouthwatering in acidity, and rich in citrus, hay and gooseberry flavors.
If you’ve never tasted a gooseberry, this is a descriptor common to some of the Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand. It’s considered a cool-climate trait, and can suggest notes of chlorophyll, mint, wintergreen, juniper berry or freshly-cut green grass. But it’s important to stress that it’s not an unripeness, but rather a particular savoriness, and when the wine is successful, that spareness will be enriched by richer, riper notes of figs, tropical guavas and green D’Anjou pears. That’s precisely what you’ll find in this K-J 2012 Grand Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.
The grapes are largely from the inland hills, mountains and benchlands of Mendocino County, where the days are warm and sunny, almost hot, but the nighttimes turn remarkably cool, as this part of California enjoys one of the most dramatic diurnal, or 24-hour, shifts of temperature; from 95 degrees it can drop to the 40s by the next morning. This is not only good summer sleeping weather, the grapes like it too, as the chill preserves the vital acidity without which Sauvignon Blanc cannot be enjoyed. For above all, you want that tart raciness that gets the tastebuds whistling, and makes the wine taste and feel so fresh and clean.
This freshness is something winemaker Randy Ullom has accentuated by cold-fermenting the wine in stainless steel tanks. The best way to think about what cold fermenting does for a crisp white wine is to imagine ripe grapes fresh from the fridge, as opposed to those that have been stored at room temperature. The cold grapes feel livelier and more stimulating. There is some oak influence on this K-J 2012 Grand Reserve, but not much–just enough to give it a touch of toast and the round mellowness that oak barrel aging brings. The 2012 vintage, of course, is already being highly celebrated for overall balance, a welcome change after the difficult 2010 and 2011 vintages.
Sauvignon Blanc in general, and the 2012 GR in particular, is one of the world’s most versatile food wines. It’s lovely as an aperitif in the late afternoon (or for a Sunday brunch!), and something about it makes you think of the beach. But it’s a year-round wine, and in the Autumn, you might want to prepare one of our favorites, Fuyu persimmon and pomegranate salad, a great opener for a dinner of lemon-chicken kebobs with Moroccan herb sauce, from Kendall-Jackson chef Justin Wangler, an exotic, spicy dish also nicely paired with the K-J Grand Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.