What are the qualities for a great Sauvignon Blanc? Kendall Jackson winemaster Randy Ullom and Sauvignon Blanc winemaker Fritz Meier, whose work patterns have been complicated by coronavirus limitations, have their thoughts on the matter.
When it comes to flavor, Meier says, “I am looking for qualities in the tropical spectrum, with a focus on citrus, stone fruit and grapefruit, balanced with a crisp acidity and a refreshing, uplifting finish. The key is to manage the canopy, grapes and fermentation toward tropical but be restrained enough to let the terroir shine through.” Meier explains that the team at Kendall Jackson has been together for many years, and collectively, they want minimal interference with the winemaking process, letting tiny imperfections build character. “We aim to craft a delicious wine, where the fruit speaks for itself and shows the potential of the vineyard. What evolves is a balanced, citrus-fruit driven Sauvignon Blanc with a vibrant personality.”
The ideal Sauvignon Blanc, according to Ullom, is easy to describe. “For me, it’s enjoyable, fruitful, pleasant to drink and a style I can drink more than one glass of.” Meier, on the other hand, has a similar method in finding an ideal vintage, but with a unique spin. “Ultimately it has to pass the “half-bottle” test. In my house, we have a tradition that I started many years ago early in my winemaking career. During the blending stage, we have many blends we’re working on, so each night, I’ll bring a sample bottle of wine home to have with dinner. If we finish our dinner plates before we finish half of the bottle, then the wine is no good. If we’ve passed the half-bottle mark by the time we’ve finished eating dinner, it’s a pretty awesome bottle of wine. Of course, this is more of a psychological and experience taste-test, but it’s a fun way to get a different perspective on the blends, in addition to our regular analytical tastings and testing in the lab.”
How Kendall Jackson makes such exquisite wine requires certain ideals of climate, place, teamwork and the right fruit. “Most of the grapes come from Lake County, followed by some from Mendocino County and then Sonoma County,” says Ullom. “For our Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve style, we need the warmer climate, albeit still somewhat coastal influenced. We like sun kissed, ripe grapes.”
To take what Mother Nature provides and craft the perfect wine takes special people. “We have an incredible team, from the vineyard folks to the winery, cellar, bottling and winemaking,” says Ullom. “Additionally, most all of us have worked for two decades or more together, with the same spirit and lust for quality.” Together, the whole team looks forward to more excellent times together, resulting in the Best Souvignon Blanc in the North Bay.