Oded Shakked was chasing waves with his surfboard in Europe when the world of wine nudged him. Shakked was invited to work a half day of harvest at Château La Fleur in Pomerol, he said, and that short window of time back in 1981 put him on his path to becoming a winemaker.
Shakked is behind our wine-of-the-week winner, the Longboard Vineyards, 2015 North Coast Sauvignon Blanc at $20.
This sauvignon blanc is layered with notes of tropical fruit, mineral and a touch of honey. But it’s also dry, with bright acid, and it finishes crisp.
Shakked said his secret is producing a sauvignon blanc that is bone-dry and that doesn’t leave behind a bitter or tart lemony sensation.
“I wish I could produce a good Sancerre here, but it is impossible,” he said. “I shoot for something that balances California fruit with French minerality. I stay away from the grass, veggie notes.”
The biggest challenges in producing sauvignon blanc, Shakked said, are the big swings in crop levels between years and knowing precisely when to pick for the style he’s crafting.
Shakked, 57, was born in Israel and came to California to pursue winemaking in the mid-1980s. He studied at UC Davis, graduating in 1988.
A decade later he launched his hobby wine brand, Longboard Vineyards. The brand grew, and Shakked left the corporate winemaking world in 2006 to focus entirely on his private label.
He said he opted for the longboard theme because he wanted his brand to represent something “real.”
“I’m not a trust-fund baby spending my parents’ money on luxury items,” Shakked said. “I’m not a Wall Street broker or Silicon Valley wunderkind who wants to have my name on a $100 bottle of wine.
This is why there is no fake château on the label or a steel engraving next to the name of some mythological deity. The brand message I am trying to convey is, ‘Be yourself.’”
Shakked said the surfboard and the grape leaf on the label are an attempt to encapsulate his two passions, surfing and winemaking.
“I love what I do, everything about it except sales and banking, and I know I can thrive in chaos without having a nervous breakdown,” he said.
“That is winemaking in a nutshell.”
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
Longboard Vineyards, 2015 North Coast Sauvignon Blanc, 13.5% alcohol, $20. ★★★★
This sauvignon blanc is a smart buy at this price point because it over delivers. It’s layered with notes of tropical fruit, mineral and a touch of honey. But it’s also dry with bright acid and finishes crisp.
Chateau Ste. Michelle, 2014 Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 13%, $11. ★★★1/2: This sauvignon blanc is bright and lively. Aromas and flavors of grapefruit, melon and mineral. Crisp acidity. Nice length.
Groth, 2015 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 14.5%, $20. ★★★★: This is a tasty bottling with layered notes of melon, citrus and mineral. It has a creamy texture and a lingering finish. A steal for the price.
Trione, 2015 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, 13.8%, $23. ★★★1/2: This is a floral sauvignon blanc with tasty aromas and flavors of rose petal, peach and mineral. It has bright acidity, yet a lush texture. It works.
Yao Family Wines Napa Crest, 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, 14.2%, $32: ★★★1/2 A tasty wine with notes of melon, pear and mineral. Floral. Bright acidity. Balanced. Well crafted.