Some random thoughts on wine, a few of which may lead to longer columns:
Lake County has truly emerged as a terrific place to grow many grape varieties, but especially sauvignon blanc.
In the last few months, participating as a judge at many wine competitions, I have found that the one region most often associated with high medals is Lake, the county just north of Napa and east of Mendocino.
This is no surprise since Sonoma County's Buena Vista once (two decades ago) made a splash with a superb Lake County sauvignon blanc.
But the winery eventually abandoned that wine. Fortunately growers in Lake County never gave up on the grape, and what we are seeing today is a great number of superb sauvignon blancs with that county's name on labels.
The great news is that the vast majority of them are in the mid-teens, price-wise, and many just over $10.
Speaking of sauvignon blanc, New Zealand continues to be a great nation for value sauvignon blancs, most from the Marlborough region. But a risk to New Zealand's image appears in many sauvignon blancs that are not dry enough for sauvignon blanc lovers.
In the last 2-3 years, far too many slightly sweet sauvignon blancs from New Zealand have hit our shores, with winemakers hoping that consumers will appreciate the sweet/tart nature of the wines. New Zealand is blessed (cursed?) with great acidity.
But for real wine lovers, many of these new, softer New Zealand sauvignon blancs are so sweet they are unbalanced.
The best are still sensational, but dry-loving consumers must pick carefully.
When I get a white or ros?wine that is clearly too soft to drink because of insufficient acidity, I add a pinch of citric acid. It often works like a charm.
Red wines from the cooler 2010 vintage in California's North Coast are hitting store shelves and some wineries had the courage to leave the wines alone and allow acid to be a feature of the wines.
This is great news for those wine lovers who had seen some rather flabby red wines since the late 1990s populate far too many wine shelves and wine lists.
It is also challenging news for some restaurants, since picking wines for wine lists over the last year has called for tasting every bottle before buying.
Some wines may be a bit too tart for some wine buyers, who had become used to the richer styles of prior vintages.
We have seen a huge number of exceptional wines in the last few years (partly as a result of cooler vintages) from grapes like Barbera, Gamay, Blaufrankisch, Semillon, Vermentino, and even Lagrein.
Adventuresome buyers are having a field day.
Wine of the Week: 2011 Girls in the Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County, Rooster Vineyard ($12.50) — This classy white wine has hints of chamomile tea, lemon peel, dried green herbs, pears, and a delicate spice note. The wine is totally dry and remarkably under-priced. A great example of a Lake County sauvignon blanc.
Dan Berger lives in Sonoma County, where he publishes "Vintage Experiences," a weekly wine newsletter. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.