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Great wineries around Sonoma for sipping sauvignon blanc


There are a lot of lovely wines to drink come springtime, but for many, none represent the season with more of a sense of floral-infused freshness and spicy minerality than sauvignon blanc. Where you enjoy this wine and what you enjoy it with matter, too. It's a classic with seafood, especially raw oysters, goat cheese and spicy food, as well as lightly composed salads. The pairings are up to you, but here are a few suggestions on wineries and tasting rooms to enjoy the wine.

<IP0>Chalk Hill

<MC>This sprawling hillside estate east of Windsor has long made a statement with its sauvignon blanc and though the winery now belongs to wine mogul Bill Foley, the statement hasn't changed at all. Take an estate tour (90 minutes, $30 per person) or dig deeper with a culinary tour (2? hours, $75 per person). Or you can really splurge for the estate luncheon with esteemed winery chef Didier Ageorges (starting at $175 per person), served in the grand Pavilion. Winemaker Lisa Bishop Forbes' 2010 Chalk Hill Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($33), set for release soon, is a jasmine-infused study in peach. The winery also makes an unusual sauvignon gris, a variant of sauvignon blanc they grow themselves that is a more fleshy, spicy version of the white. Open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

10300 Chalk Hill Road, Healdsburg, 657-4837, www.chalkhill.com.

<IP0>Charles Krug

<MC>Krug is always a beautiful place to sip wine, its lush lawn such a respite from Highway 29 and other busy spots in the Napa Valley. Now is a particularly worthwhile time to visit, given proprietor Peter Mondavi Sr.'s recent induction into the Vintners Hall of Fame. All of 97 years old, Mondavi is credited with perfecting many of the cold-fermentation techniques used today in California, a process that keeps white wines crisp and fruity. The winery's 2011 St. Helena Sauvignon Blanc ($18), just released, is a testament to that level of perfection, layered with beautiful wisps of stone fruit and minerality. It's also the first wine made by Krug's new winemaker, Stacy Clark. Open daily 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

2800 Main St., St. Helena, 967-2200, www.charleskrug.com.

<IP0>Ferrari-Carano

<MC>The gorgeously groomed Ferrari-Carano, deep in the Dry Creek Valley, is a movie-like setting for sipping its 2010 fum?blanc. Available only at the winery, it is aged in barrel for a fuller body and more lush style. The wine's flavors and aromas speak to its tropical heritage, with plenty of spicy citrus going on, too. Co-proprietor Rhonda Carano pairs it with spicy lime-ginger grilled shrimp; her recipe is available online. Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The winery also has a tasting bar and boutique in downtown Healdsburg (113 Plaza St., 431-2222; open Tuesday to Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

8761 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 433-6700, www.ferraricarano.com.

<IP0>Honig

<MC>Sustainably farmed in Rutherford, Honig's 2010 Sauvignon Blanc ($16) is juicy and refreshing, made in a classic Napa Valley style, medium-bodied yet still crisp, with orange and grapefruit flavors bursting out most prominently. Open by appointment 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tasting is $10 per person and includes four wines.

850 Rutherford Road, Rutherford, (800) 929-2217, www.honigwine.com.

<IP0>Medlock Ames

<MC>From their outside patio in the heart of Alexander Valley, Medlock Ames' 2010 Sauvignon Blanc ($27) could not be more ideal for a sunny afternoon, rich and tangy with enough acidity to support its strong grapefruit flavors. Ask to do a wine and food pairing ($20/person) and enjoy a flight of the winery's current releases paired with local cheeses, salami and produce straight from Medlock Ames's own gardens.

Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

3487 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, 431-1418, www.medlockames.com.

<IP0>Peju

<MC>The Peju 2010 Sauvignon Blanc ($22) is light and crisp, with lots of lemon and lime flavors layered around a passion-fruit center and so much minerality you'll swear it flowed down a river of smooth rocks. Peju maintains a glorious garden right along Highway 29, planted and tended by owners Tony and HB Peju, that feels worlds away. The winery provides what it calls "Vintertainment" at its tastings, a musical narrative about Peju and the Napa Valley by musician Alan Arnopole. Open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

8466 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford, (800) 446-7358, www.peju.com.

<IP0>Starmont

<MC>A sister label of Merryvale Vineyards in St. Helena, the Starmont Winery is based in Carneros and is the happy home of the producer's nicely crafted sauvignon blancs, including the 2009 ($18), a rambunctious version of the wine, fermented in both oak and stainless steel. Melon, lime and lemongrass make up the majority of its lushness, and the wine's texture is layered enough to stand up to spicy food or an oyster topped with a cilantro and tomato-based relish. Taste at Merryvale, open daily 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

1000 Main St., St. Helena, 963-2225, www.merryvale.com.

Virginie Boone is a freelance wine writer based in Sonoma County. She can be reached at virginieboone@yahoo.com.