Wine of the Week: Cliff Lede, 2018 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

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THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING

TOP PICK: Cliff Lede

Cliff Lede, 2018 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 14.2% alcohol, $28. ★★★★

A striking sauvignon blanc with complex aromas and flavors –– grapefruit, lemon, tangerine and a hint of apricot. Bright acidity. Pitch perfect balance. Finishes crisp. Impressive.

Tasty ALTERNATIVES

Ehlers Estate, 2018 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 13.2%, $32. ★★★★: A refreshing bone-dry sauvignon blanc with bright acidity and notes of grapefruit, guava and pineapple. Citrusy finish. Pretty.

Rodney Strong Vineyards, 2018 Charlotte’s Home, Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, 13.5%, $17. ★★★★: Crisp and lively, this sauvignon blanc is a smart pick. It’s buoyed by bright acidity and it has a great melding of flavors –– grapefruit, honeydew melon and a touch of lemongrass. Lovely.

Dry Creek Vineyard, 2018 Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 14.1%, $20. ★★★★: A seamless sauvignon blanc that has a tasty yin yang. It’s bright, yet rich with notes of lemon curd and tangerine. Crisp finish. Elegant.

Merry Edwards, 2017 Russian River Valley Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, 14.1%, $36. ★★★★1/2: A gorgeous sauvignon blanc that reels you in with aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, gardenia, grapefruit and lemon zest. Crisp acidity gives it great backbone. Spot on.

Winemakers are expected to be rustic and polished, comfortable in a suit and tie, as well as in a T-shirt and jeans. Mastering this curious blend of earthy and refined is not lost on Christopher Tynan, winemaker of Napa Valley’s Cliff Lede.

“I might be covered in grease and grapes repairing a broken destemmer, hosting a famous actress and her entourage in the cave for a barrel tasting, selling the newest vintage to our distributor visiting from Denmark, and pouring wine in a coat and tie at a $5,000-a-plate charity auction all in one day,” Tynan said. “I enjoy the ebb and flow of the harvest cycle. It’s never the same day twice for a winemaker.”

Tynan is behind our wine of the week winner –– the Cliff Lede, 2018 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc at $28. It’s a striking sauvignon blanc with complex aromas and flavors –– grapefruit, lemon, tangerine and a hint of apricot. It has a depth of flavors on the palate, and yet it’s light on its feet. The Cliff Lede has bright acidity and pitch perfect balance, finishing crisp.

“I always enjoyed the wines made from sauvignon blanc, especially the great Bordeaux blancs and Loire Valley examples,” Tynan said. “It’s useful to have some reference points when you’re deciding what style might work best for your vineyards.”

Crafting sauvignon blanc piqued Tynan’s interest after tasting a particularly inspired bottling.

“There was a well-cared for bottle of 1947 Laville Haut Brion Blanc that made a huge impact on my perception of the quality and potential of sauvignon blanc and semillon,” he said. “The wine was so alive and beautiful that it gave me encouragement that sauvignon blanc could be more than just a simple table wine.”

Tynan, 44, earned a degree in English and Art History from Texas State University. He began his wine career working summers as a vineyard technician doing irrigation management for vineyards across Napa and Sonoma counties.

His Napa Valley credits include Cain Vineyard, Blankiet Estate and Colgin Cellars. During Tynan’s tenure at Colgin, his wines were awarded seven 100-point scores from wine critic Robert Parker.

“Our style of sauvignon blanc is classically Californian with a nod to Bordeaux,” Tynan said. “It’s a richer, elegant style with the semillon adding an expansive coating/mouthfeel that adds depth and richness.”

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING

TOP PICK: Cliff Lede

Cliff Lede, 2018 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 14.2% alcohol, $28. ★★★★

A striking sauvignon blanc with complex aromas and flavors –– grapefruit, lemon, tangerine and a hint of apricot. Bright acidity. Pitch perfect balance. Finishes crisp. Impressive.

Tasty ALTERNATIVES

Ehlers Estate, 2018 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 13.2%, $32. ★★★★: A refreshing bone-dry sauvignon blanc with bright acidity and notes of grapefruit, guava and pineapple. Citrusy finish. Pretty.

Rodney Strong Vineyards, 2018 Charlotte’s Home, Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, 13.5%, $17. ★★★★: Crisp and lively, this sauvignon blanc is a smart pick. It’s buoyed by bright acidity and it has a great melding of flavors –– grapefruit, honeydew melon and a touch of lemongrass. Lovely.

Dry Creek Vineyard, 2018 Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 14.1%, $20. ★★★★: A seamless sauvignon blanc that has a tasty yin yang. It’s bright, yet rich with notes of lemon curd and tangerine. Crisp finish. Elegant.

Merry Edwards, 2017 Russian River Valley Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, 14.1%, $36. ★★★★1/2: A gorgeous sauvignon blanc that reels you in with aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, gardenia, grapefruit and lemon zest. Crisp acidity gives it great backbone. Spot on.

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