For Jennifer Williams, great sauvignon blanc starts with the hunt.
“I’m always looking for small, flavorful, juicy berries,” said Williams, the winemaker at Napa Valley’s Arrow&Branch.
“There’s a lot of sauvignon blanc planted out there, so it’s about selecting the best vineyard sources. I like to find sauvignon blanc growing on distinct soils, in different climates and conditions.”
Williams is behind our wine-of-the-week winner, the Arrow&Branch, 2015 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc at $35, which is sourced from two Napa Valley vineyards, the McGah Family Vineyard in Rutherford and the Rewa Vineyard in Coombsville.
What makes the wine a standout is its great minerality, coupled with its tasty stone fruit. With a bright acidity and citrus finish, it’s well-crafted and refreshing.
Williams said the uninitiated may not know about sauvignon blanc is that Clone 1 is the most widely planted clone in California. A clone is a cutting or bud of a mother plant, genetically identical to the first.
Although this Arrow&Branch sauvignon blanc is made with just one clone, she said, “when you mix the clones together, you get a very interesting wine.”
Williams said she’s a good fit for producing sauvignon blanc because she fancies the varietal.
“I enjoy drinking it,” she said. “And I’ve been making sauvignon blanc for many years from all over the North Coast. I really enjoy sauvignon blancs that are layered. I also like them to be fresh and minerally, steely with a nice stone fruit component.”
Williams, 40, was born in San Diego, and she graduated from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo in 1999.
“I discovered winemaking in college, and I came to Napa Valley for an internship at Napa Valley’s Trefethen,” she said. “That first year, I was too young to buy the wine I was working to help create. But what struck me was the mixture of agriculture and community that wine brings together.”
Williams was winemaker at Spottswoode Estate Vineyard and Winery when she was tapped to take the same position at Arrow&Branch, known primarily for its Bordeaux style reds. She stepped into the job in time to make the 2011 vintage.
Williams likes putting her senses of smell and taste to work on a variety of fronts. She grows basil and tomatoes in her garden, along with other kinds of produce.
“I love playing around in the kitchen growing food,” she said, “and I think that exercising the senses in those pursuits helps make me a good winemaker.”
Williams said the wine she’s shooting for is a fresh Loire style white. “We really want that minerally component.”
Because Williams started in the vineyards, she knows how to pamper the vines.
“That’s my educational background,” she said. “I managed vineyards. I spend lots of time walking vineyards, falling in love with their soils, rethinking their trellises, really getting to know them.”
Arrow & Branch, 2015 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 14.1%, $35. ★★★★
What makes this a standout is its great minerality, coupled with its tasty stonefruit. It’s well crafted and refreshing, with its bright acidity and citrusy finish.
Groth, 2015 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 14.5%, $15. ★★★1/2: A vibrant sauvignon blanc with tropical and citrus fruit. Aromatic. Crisp acidity. Nice length.
Husch, 2015 Mendocino Sauvignon Blanc, 13.8%, $15. ★★★★: A lovely sauvignon blanc with notes of pineapple, mango and lime. What makes it a standout is its layered flavors and bright acidity.
Davis Bynum, 2014 Virginia’s Block, Jane’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley, 14.5%, $22. ★★★★: A citrusy sauvignon blanc with tangy flavors of grapefruit and lime. Crisp acidity. Impeccable balance.
J. Lohr, 2015 Arroyo Seco, Monterey Sauvignon Blanc, 13.5%, $18. ★★★1/2: This sauvignon blanc has quite a range — grapefruit, passionfruit, gooseberry and light toast. Lively acidity. Zesty finish.