I recently learned that one of my editors ranks among those seemingly open and unbiased Wineaux who secretly harbors a strong aversion to a certain varietal. In fact, said editor has confessed to such a strong dislike for Sauvignon Blanc that when he recently drank — and enjoyed — a French Sancerre, he was chagrined to learn that Sancerres are in fact 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc.
It was just his sort that Robert Mondavi had in mind back in the 1960s, when he renamed the grape Fumé Blanc and suddenly started doing big business with the same wine whose sales previously had been paltry. In contrast, Cockerell Family Wine Estates of Napa proudly bears the varietal's name on its bottle — in fact, Sauvignon Blanc is all they produce — but even the Cockerells have gone Francophile in the naming of their brand: Coquerel. Made from estate-grown Calistoga grapes, the 2008 Le Petit Coquerel Sauvignon Blanc is hardly a bargain at $22.50, but it is infused with the melony bouquet for which northern Napa Sauvignon Blancs are known, with notes of tropical fruit and white peaches thrown in for good measure and tons more melon and citrus on the palate.
The 2006 Verve Sauvignon Blanc ($10), an offering from the East Bay's own Aubin Cellars, is actually made from grapes grown in Aubin's Villa San Juliette vineyard in Paso Robles. Like Le Petit Coquerel, it's aged in stainless steel — the better to avoid masking the varietal's famous bouquet with oak — but its pleasantly herbaceous aroma was a bit muted. Light with a bit of sweetness on the palate, the overall impression the Verve left was of a tart little wine that would be just the thing — though some may call it sacrilege — to use in a white-wine spritzer. It definitely lived up to the Central Coast's reputation for producing Sauvignon Blancs with strongly "grassy" flavors.
Aubin Cellars will be pouring wines from their Verve line on Thursday, July 23, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Franklin Square Wine Bar, as part of the wine bar's $1 Thursday wine-tasting series. For $1, you can taste everything that week's winery has chosen to offer at the event — and bottles can be purchased at retail prices. With Aubin Cellars already offering some of the best-value wines produced locally (we've especially liked past vintages of their Syrah and French Columbard), the event becomes a triple threat: cheap, locavore-friendly, and a pleasant place to drink outdoors.
Franklin Square Wine Bar is located at 2212 Broadway in Oakland. Aubin Cellars, also based in Oakland, will be participating in the 4th Annual Urban Wine Experience held in Jack London Square on August 8. For more information, visit EastBayVintners.com.
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