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Wine of the week: Sidebar, 2014 High Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Time to rearrange your closet and your wine stash, with summer whites in front for easy access. A tasty white to include in your lineup is our wine-of-the-week winner – the Sidebar, 2014 High Valley Sauvignon Blanc at $25.

It's a striking sauvignon blanc that is exceedingly supple, but it manages to be balanced by offering up bright fruit and a crisp finish. It's a lovely white and a bit unusual. It will no doubt turn heads.

'I think it's the perfect spring and summertime wine,' said Lydia Cummins, winemaker of Sidebar, the new brand at Ramey Wine Cellars in Healdsburg. 'It's fresh and not complicated and it pairs well with some of my favorite foods, including oysters, grilled vegetables, fire-roasted bell pepper with goat cheese.'

The first vintage of the Sidebar Brand was 2014, and Cummins said the idea is to produce 'fun wines at moderate prices in a range of varieties.'

Cummins is working closely with vintner David Ramey and his daughter, Claire, on the new brand. The winemaker is drawing upon the vintner's breadth of experience. In the past, Ramey has crafted wines for Simi Winery and Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery in Healdsburg, Matanzas Creek Winery in Santa Rosa, and Rudd Winery in Oakville.

The goal, Cummins said, is to make a tasty white that people can enjoy more than one glass of.

'Sauvignon blanc's character is easy to exaggerate,' Cummins said. 'Yet with traditional winemaker techniques, it can be varietally true, balanced, subtle and delicious without hitting you over the head.'

A precocious wine enthusiast, Cummins grew up with wine on her dinner table growing up in San Diego. Wine appreciation was instilled in her by her father, who grew up in Europe, notably in Spain and Germany.

In college, she studied chemistry, but taking a wine appreciation class took her back to her childhood table. 'The class sparked this incredible idea and passion inside of me,' she said. 'I transferred to UC Davis in 2003 and changed my major to viticulture and enology.'

In addition to being the winemaker of Sidebar, Cummins is associate winemaker at Ramey Wine Cellars. She has been working at the Healdsburg winery for seven years.

Cummins is passionate about winemaking and she knows the stakes are high.

'Unlike a chef who can make up to 300 meals in a night, as a winemaker I only have one chance a year to craft the best wine possible,' she said.

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This week's blind tasting: Sauvignon Blanc

TOP PICK

Sidebar, 2014 High Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 13% alcohol, $25. ★★★★:

A striking sauvignon blanc that is exceedingly supple -- surprisingly lush. Bright fruit. Crisp finish. Well integrated and balanced. Will no doubt turn heads. Classic.

TASTY ALTERNATIVES

Longboard, 2014 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, 14.1%, $20. ★★★★

: An aromatic sauvignon blanc, with lively tropical flavors. A hint of honey in the mix. Great minerality. Crisp acid. Longboard bottled the surf.

Pedroncelli 2014 East Side Vineyards, Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, 13.4 percent, $15. ★★★

1⁄2: There's a great interplay between citrus and tropical flavors in this sauvignon blanc. Neither dominates. On the contrary, both court each other. Bright acid. Nice minerality. A lingering finish.

Foppiano Vineyards, 2013 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 13.5 percent, $15. ★★★★

: A bright, tangy sauvignon blanc with a great quench. Notes of grapefruit, lime, Meyer lemon and apricot. Sassy finish of spice. What gives this sauvignon blanc the edge is its pitch perfect balance. Impressive.

Steelhead Vineyards, 2013 North Coast Sauvignon Blanc, 13.5%, $13. ★★★

: A grassy sauvignon blanc with bright notes of grapefruit, honeydew and lime. Balanced. Citrusy finish. This is an approachable sauvignon blanc. A tasty, warm-weather quaff.

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

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