Origin – An indigenous grape of Bordeaux who’s name (sauvage – “wild), reflects its ancient origin; it is acknowledged to be a parent of royalty. Sauvignon Blanc’s marriage to Cabernet Franc produced the king of reds – Cabernet Sauvignon. Sauvignon Blanc grapes infected by the “Noble Rot” (botrytis) are blended with Semillon to produce the famous, and expensive, Sauternes dessert wines.
Introduced to California – Exactly when the Sauvignon Blanc first reached the state is uncertain but it is likely cuttings from French vines were included in 300 varieties imported by “Count” Agoston Haraszthy in 1862. By the late 1880s, producers in Sonoma, Napa, and the Santa Clara Valley were labeling Sauvignon Blanc wines as “Sauterne”.
Grape Character – Sauvignon Blanc is highly site-sensitive and small variations in climate, water, slope and sun exposure have large affects on the grapes. Sauvignon Blancs from cool climate vines tend to high in acidity, floral aroma, with robust fruitiness, and a streak of herbal grassiness. Grapes hidden from the sun by a thick canopy of leaves will exhibit a more pronounced grassiness.
Wine Character – Some wines exhibit a tropical fruit, and melon character while others show a pronounced herbaceousness and “grassy” tendency. The difference is primarily a factor of vineyard site and an organic compound called methoxy-pyrazine. This powerful natural chemical triggers descriptors including; grassy, asparagus, bell pepper, jalapeno, gooseberry, grapefruit rind, and even cat pee. It is the grape’s methoxy-pyrazine coupled with high acidity that distinguishes Sauvignon Blanc.
Trivia - French frontier salesman Louis Mel settled in the Livermore Valley in 1884. Mel’s wife was close friends with the owners of Chateau D’ Yquem and permitted Mel to plant cutting from their famous French vineyard on his Livermore property.