Monday, May 16, 2011

Shannon Ridge Sauvignon Blanc, Another Summer Sipper

Late last month I was sent an assortment of white wine samples, one box containing riesling and sauvignon blanc arrived at my doorstep. This is the first of the bunch that I tasted, the 2009 Shannon Ridge Sauvignon Blanc "Ranch Collection" from the Lake County AVA. That appellation might not sound familiar, and for good reason. Lake County is not a big-name region like Napa or Sonoma, in fact, the most famous winery in the area might just be Guenoc, though Geyser Peak sources a ton of grapes from the area. The climate is cooler than Napa or Sonoma and there is less diurnal variation, which is the difference between the daytime high and nighttime low temperatures. This results in a different set of flavors than we'd get from grapes grown in other areas of the state. I'll explain below.

I should state that I usually do not enjoy California sauvignon blancs as much as say, French or South American examples. Even New Zealand occasionally gets it right in my book, when those sauvignon blancs aren't soaked in bitter acid.. California has always meant overly ripe, tropical fruit laden sauvignon blancs that fail to express any minerality whatsoever to me. They've been like drinking guava/pineapple nectar mixed with white grape juice. Yuck! Not at all what I like in a white wine unless we're talking something stunning like a Moscatel from Navarra..But stay tuned for that!

Shannon Ridge's 2009 Sauvignon Blanc does a lot to defy the conventions of this state's primary style of sauvignon blanc. The question is, of course, does it do enough? Does the Shannon Ridge justify it's $16 suggested retail price? Let's find out.

In the glass, this wine is nicely aromatic and in a word, exuberant. There are a few primary scents; ruby red grapefruit juice with some lemongrass as well. While a bit simple, these aromas are very fresh and enticing, and most importantly to me, not overly sweet. There's a hint of white peach and tropical fruit, adding just enough sweetness to enhance the bouquet while preventing a sugar catastrophe.

This Lake County sauvignon blanc has a good burst of acidity too, it's light and crisp while retaining some sense of minerality and fruity flavors. Unfortunately that minerality just doesn't go far enough for me, leaving the passion fruit and pineapple flavors unbalanced and somewhat clunky. The finish descends through layers of Bartlett pear and a touch of perfume before vanishing entirely. Not exactly what I expected but not necessarily something that hurts the wine. That out-of-balance feeling stays with me though, which isn't a good sign.

The Shannon Ridge Sauvignon Blanc is a solid wine that's priced just a bit too high for what you get. For me, the unbalanced palate detracted from what could have been a truly fine wine, one that would have showed a lot of non-California sauvignon blanc drinkers what this state can do. Now getting back to that price, the suggested retail is $16, but through the magic of Google I found the wine for closer to $10 at Beverages and More, making it much more reasonable. At the $10 price point, it is precisely what I expect in a sauvignon blanc. Still, I'd rather drink a Chateau St. Michelle or Geyser Peak sauvignon blanc because they consistently deliver beyond the price point. B- and a PASS recommendation at this point.

This wine was sent as a media sample for review purposes.

Beau Carufel

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