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Steve Rued said sauvignon blanc has become part of his winemaking DNA.

The director of winemaking at St. Helena's Rutherford Wine Co. said the varietal has become a specialty of his over the years.

"Sauvignon blanc is at the top of my list for white wines," Rued said. "I personally drink more sauvignon blanc than any other variety (although pinot noir is a close second). What I like best about sauvignon blanc is the combination of flavors this variety has, along with the natural acidity of the wine."

Rued is behind our wine-of-the-week winner -#8212; the Rutherford Ranch, 2012 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc at $18. It's a smart white wine with flavors that pop. The sauvignon blanc has notes of lemongrass, herbs and Meyer lemon, with a citrusy finish.

"I try to make a classic California style of sauvignon blanc," Rued said. "To me, this is a sauvignon blanc with some grassiness in the nose with vibrant melon and citrus as well. I want the predominant flavors to be citrus and melon, with the grassiness in the background. I also want balanced acidity. I shoot for this style, because this is the type of sauvignon blanc that I like to drink."

Rued said even though the New Zealand style of sauvignon blanc is the most popular currently, he prefers a California-styled creation.

"I have always tried to maintain a style of sauvignon blanc that I like, and I have not attempted imitate a style of wine from a different region," he said. "I am not a big fan of the New Zealand sauvignon blancs."

Rued said he first fell for sauvignon blanc when he worked at Kenwood Vineyards in 1994.

"Sauvignon blanc was always the first wine we had during our harvest lunches," he said. "You couldn't work for Mike Lee, (the late co-founder), if you didn't love sauvignon blanc."

<em> Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 521-5310 or peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com.</em>

<strong>Wine of the Week</strong>

Wine writer Peg Melnik had a blind tasting this week of sauvignon blancs, searching out the best to uncork in the new year. While the entire flight was impressive, our wine-of-the-week winner is the Rutherford Ranch, 2012 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc at $18.

<strong>TOP PICK: Rutherford Ranch, 2012 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc,</strong> 12.5 percent alcohol, $18. **** A smart wine with flavors that pop. Notes of lemongrass, herbs and Meyer lemon. Citrusy finish. Nice length.

<em><strong>Other wines worth seeking out:</strong></em>

<strong>St. Supery, 2012 Dollarhide, Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc,</strong> 14.1 percent, $35. **** Zesty, with bright notes of grapefruit and lime. Lightly toasted. Great structure. Crisp finish.

<strong>Kunde, 2012 Magnolia Lane, Sonoma Valley Sauvignon Blanc,</strong> 13.8 percent, $17. **** A tangy sauvignon blanc with aromas and flavors of grapefruit, nectarine and lemon zest. Bright and lively. Impressive.

<strong>Wente, 2012 Louis Mel, Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay Sauvignon Blanc,</strong> 13 percent, $15. **** This is an interesting example of the varietal, with notes of tangerine, herbs and honeydew. Bright and refreshing. Lovely.

<strong>Picket Fence, 2012 Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc,</strong> 13.5 percent, $16. *** 1/2 Bright, with notes of grapefruit, herbs and mineral. Good acidity. Crisp finish.