Wine of the week: Quivira, 2020 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon blanc in the winter? Are you nuts?
Not at all, according to Hugh Chappelle, winemaker of Healdsburg’s Quivira Vineyards.
“Just like enjoying a rosé in the winter, a nice sauvignon blanc is a welcome ray of sunshine, where its bright personality, upfront fruit and juicy acidity just seem to liven up any occasion,” he said.
Chappelle is behind The Press Democrat’s wine of the week winner — the Quivira, 2020 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, 13.3% at $23. A New Zealand-style sauvignon blanc, it’s grassy with notes of grapefruit and lime zest. With racy acidity and pitch-perfect balance, it finishes crisp.
Other tasty sauvignon blancs, at a range of price points, include: J. Cage Cellars, 2020 Tzabaco Rancho Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, 14.2%, $30; Ladera, 2020 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 14%, $36; Whitehaven, 2020 Marlborough, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, 13%, $17; and Trione, 2020 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California, 13.5%, $25.
As for the winning Quivira sauvignon blanc, Chappelle said four things set it apart from others in its price range.
First, the winery uses “phased picking,” which means they pick the fruit at many different points of ripeness to naturally build balance and complexity.
Chappelle also opts for a thoughtful blend of stainless steel, French oak and acacia for both fermentation and blending.
The winery likes diversity in the blend, he added, including a good portion of sauvignon musque and occasionally a splash of Semillon.
And most of the fruit is estate-certified organic, which anchors the blend each year and gives it consistency.
Chappelle said he was destined to craft sauvignon blanc.
“I grew up with riesling in the refrigerator, due to a German mom from the Mosel (wine region), and the taste of a highly aromatic white wine was something I got exposed to at an early age,” he said. “I got to experience its wonders at the dinner table. And experiencing an early love with almost all foods that pair well with sauvignon blanc made it inevitable I’d find a way to make sauvignon blanc.”
A self-proclaimed “former biotech nerd,” Chappelle, 59, is the head winemaker for Quivira Vineyards and LaFollette Wine owned by Pete and Terri Kight. He studied viticulture and enology in graduate school at UC Davis.
The most challenging part of making sauvignon blanc, the winemaker said, is making sure it’s balanced and layered.
“At Quivira, we’re obsessed with ‘balance’ in all our wines,” Chappelle said. “This is our primary challenge alongside adapting to slightly warmer harvest conditions and the need to start harvest much earlier than (we did) 10-15 years ago.”
An additional challenge, he said, is crafting a product with some complexity.
“Sauvignon blanc’s strong personality and varietal character has a tendency to make ‘one note’ wines if there is not some thought put into it.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at email@example.com or 707-521-5310.
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the last name of Pete and Terri Kight.