Why should you care? I taste too many classic piercing, citrussy sauvignon blancs from the Loire Valley, New Zealand and South Africa (usually done entirely in stainless steel) to get too worked up about examples from our own West Coast, particularly California. With just a few exceptions, these American versions of sauvignon are simpler and less concentrated, or are swamped by too much oak or alcohol. Rarely does 100% sauvignon blanc from the West Coast offer the aromatic complexity, the tactile mouth feel or the palate presence of a handful of altogether more serious white wines that are blends of sauvignon and semillon. These latter wines are often described as the “Bordeaux style” of sauvignon blanc, which often means fermentation and/or aging in barrel and the inclusion of some semillon in the blend. A few of the very best of these wines, not surprisingly, are made by California winemakers with Bordeaux in their blood, such as Denis Malbec, Philippe Melka and Luc and Nicolas Morlet. One of the most exciting of all of these wines doesn’t even come from California: it’s made in Washington State by DeLille Cellars.
What does it taste like? With its 62/38 blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon, and 65% new oak, the Chaleur Estate 2011 Blanc grabs your attention with aromas of lemon drop, mirabelle, underbrush and botanical herbs, complicated by honey and guava nuances from the semillon. It combines a silky texture with outsanding grip, conveying terrific intensity without weight. This firm, classically dry blend delivers captivating flavors of lemon zest, honey, dried herbs and flowers. And its price is downright reasonable. Talented winemaker Chris Peterson took this bottling to a higher level in recent vintages before leaving to start his own brand, Avennia; this splendid 2011 was made by DeLille’s long-time chief winemaker and partner Chris Upchurch. My score: 94 points.
How much does it cost? $36.