2009 Estate Sauvignon Blanc
California: Napa Valley: Carneros
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s wine was declared to be the finest Sauvignon Blanc that we have ever featured on our pages. Given that we are in our fifth year of featuring the best wines that we can find, this is quite an accomplishment.
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Mission Codename: All Hartwell
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to the Hartwelll Estate winery, where some of our Operatives’ best-loved Cabernets have come from. In time for Springtime sipping, direct Agent Red to sample their white wine selections, in order to secure an ample allotment for our thirsty Operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Hartwell Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2009 Sauvignon Blanc
Winemaker: Benoit Touquette
Backgrounder: Sauvignon Blanc originally hails from the Loire Valley in France, but has found new homes in other parts of France (Bordeaux, where it is blended with Sauternes), New Zealand (especially the Marlborough region) and, of course, California. Sauvignon Blanc is generally dry and crisp with flavors of apples, pears and tropical fruit and it tends to have bright acidity that lends itself well to pairing with spicy foods.
Today’s wine was grown in Hartwell’s Carneros AVA vineyards. While the wine drinkers around the globe may argue about which region grows the best wines in the Napa Valley, we don’t take sides; We happen to be enamored with Carneros, sure, but what matters most is that our Operatives are the ultimate beneficiaries the selection of today’s wine!
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Pale straw yellow, right out to the glinting edges of the wine. When swirled, the wine shows a tight and springy surface that settles quickly. Tall columns of wide legs start high on the glass, thinning as they run down to the surface below.
Smell – Fragrant and lush, with green apple, Asian mango, yellow grapefruit and lemongrass that leap from the glass. These are followed, closely, by vanilla, Meyer lemon, lime and slate.
Feel – Soft and creamy at the tip of the tongue, the wine glides across the entry and over the mid-palate. Bright acidity at the edges of the palate causes the mouth to water, bringing out more of the fruit flavors of the wine. After a moment, soft tannins add a hint of dryness add to the complexity of the wine.
Taste – Bright and bold, with more real fruit than one might expect from a Sauvignon Blanc! Delicious flavors of grapefruit, lemon, green mango and slightly underripe white peach are right out front. As the wine warms, even slightly, additional dimension and flavors emerge. These flavors, which include slate, lime, pear and white flowers are delicious.
Finish – Long and dynamic, with high and bright fruit yielding to lime zest, white flowers and slate. As these flavors gradually taper off, a hint of tartness persists at the endges of the palate for a very long time.
Conclusion – The best Sauvignon Blanc I have tasted and reviewed here, this wine delivers a a wonderful drinking experience. The wine has a superior mouth-feel, wonderful flavors, and enticing aromas. Delicious and fruit-forward, with none of the problems that can plague the varietal, this is the perfect Spring or Summer wine – and the perfect Fall and Winter Holiday wine! Okay, so the wine is perfect year-round. I don’t mind sounding overly blustery by declaring this. The bold flavors of the wine are tempered by its brightness, making the wine a great pairing partner for most foods. I recommend pairing the wine with a fruit and cheese plate, or a spicy Asian dish. Ready to drink now, the winery also recommends that you carefully stash a few bottles, as the wine will continue to improve for the next couple of years. I don’t normally get excited about a Sauvignon Blanc, but this one has really captivated me!
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Benoit Touquette
WINE EDUCATION: Master Science Degree of Enology University Bordeaux
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Worked as assistant to Andy Erickson 04 – 07 ,Winemaker at Hartwell since then
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: to craft wine that expresses the specific characteristics of the terroir and fruit from the vines
WINEMAKER QUOTE: Life is to share….wine too….
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 2006
AGENT RED: Greetings, Benoit. We are thrilled to be showing your 2009 Estate Sauvignon Blanc today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
BENOIT: My pleasure!
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
BENOIT: I have been fortunate to work with great people such as Michel Rolland, Andy Erickson etc… and fortunate to work in many parts of the world, Napa Valley, France and South Africa
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
BENOIT: Michel Rolland; with no question.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
BENOIT: I would say myself being a bit selfish but in the end hopefully the consumer will like the wine we produce
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
BENOIT: Our 2009 Estate Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from our Carneros Estate vineyard and was grown during a superb vintage. Michel Rolland and I carefully blend this wine after five months aging from three different fermentation vessels; seasoned French oak barrels, stainless steel barrels and our concrete egg. I strive to produce a Sauvignon Blanc that shows more developed fruit aromatics along with a richer mouthfeel than most other producers, while still maintaining a precise and sweet acidity to keep the finish crisp and refreshing.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
BENOIT: This wine drinks beautifully on its own during a warm summer day, but I really think it is superb with either a tangy chevre from the Loire Valley or a freshwater fish such as trout prepared in a Beurre Blanc sauce (perhaps I am a bit biased towards the classic French pairings?)
RED: That’s very European! In your opinion, what makes the Carneros region so special?
BENOIT: The Carneros region has a perfect climate for slow ripening of white varietals with its cool and foggy mornings, warm yet mild sunny days and cool breezy evenings. Sauvignon Blanc really performs well in this region since it has the chance to slowly develop its flavors without losing its vitality and clarity since the acidity is never lost to the heat.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
BENOIT: I am balancing time equally between the vineyard and the winery. In the vineyards we have gone through bud break so we are just beginning to formulate our initial strategy (like when to cut back our winter cover crop, etc…) I am always keeping an eye on the weather reports as well to assist me in my decision making for the upcoming season. Many of the choices I make now will play a very important role in how the vintage turns out! In the winery we are continuing to rack our 2009 reds and putting together some trial blends before bottling later this summer. I am very excited for the reds from 2009 almost as much as I was for the Sauvignon Blanc!
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
BENOIT: It is always good to let the wines breath (young or old) thru a decanting process. Always pay attention to the pour temperature if you want to get the best from the wine you are drinking.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
BENOIT: Just have fun discovering, tasting and sharing new wines with friends and family…be fearless and adventuress.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
BENOIT: Merci, et mon plaisir!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of Hartwell Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
We are proud to present Hartwell Vineyard’s Sauvignon Blanc from our estate vineyard in Carneros. Our vineyard, in Napa Valley’s cool southernmost appellation, is just one mile from San Francisco/San Pablo Bay. Three distinct clones of Sauvignon Blanc provide individual characteristics in this layered, complex wine. Grapes are carefully sorted to eliminate imperfections and then gently whole-cluster pressed. The resulting juice is clean and intense, with rich flavor and mouthwatering acidity.
The wine was fermented in 60% small stainless steel barrels and 40% French oak château barrels (25% new oak). The small stainless barrels bring a vibrant acidity to the wine and protect the lively varietal character. The wine’s bright aromatics include notes of mango, passion fruit, grapefruit and vanilla while the creamy mouth feel is balanced by mouthwatering acidity.
Aged on the lees for eight months and stirred frequently, some barrels have accomplished the malolatic fermentation to give more complexity to the blend. This Sauvignon Blanc is meant to be enjoyed now, while some time in the bottle will enhance the wine’s delicious mineral characteristics.
About The Winery:
Bob Hartwell’s passion for wine stems from his decades as an avid collector. Bob, a fourth generation Californian, has over thirty years of success in the aerospace and plumbing industries. As a successful manufacturer of quality products, Bob has never been a stranger to striving for quality over quantity at any cost. He has always known that the best quality materials result in the best quality products.
Bob’s obsession with producing the best didn’t stop at the manufacturing plant. Bob knew that fulfilling the dream of owning his own vineyard meant finding the best place to grow the best Cabernet Sauvignon. With the help of a respected wine consultant, he found the property he had been searching for. The unplanted hillside in the Stag’s Leap District, now Hartwell Estate, was the birthplace of his dream.
Dick Grace shared his Bouche Clone from Grace Family Vineyards, and collaborated with Bob on Hartwell’s very first production. In 1990 after 22 months in new French oak barrels, the wine, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, was released with explosive success. This established the tradition of quality and style that continues to distinguish Hartwell wines.
In addition to making great wine, Blanca and Bob Hartwell are dedicated to the tradition of charitable giving. Their ongoing philanthropic efforts are instrumental to organizations that improve the lives of children.
Benoit Touquette, Winemaker – Benoit holds a Masters degree of Enology and Chemistry from the University of Bordeaux. He has worked at several Bordeaux wineries including Chateau La Louviere and Chateau Couhins-Lurton. Early in his career Benoit made wine for Michel Rolland, “The Flying Winemaker,” in South Africa at Remhoogte Estate. Benoit is a star on the rise in the wine world and is devoted to continuing the Hartwell tradition of producing wines of distinction and acclaim.
Consulting Winemaker, Michel Rolland – Considered the world’s most influential winemaker and a graduate of the prestigious Bordeaux Faculty of Oenology, Michel Rolland has joined Hartwell Vineyards as a consulting winemaker.
Appellation: Carneros, Napa Valley
Blend: Sauvignon Blanc
Aging: Eight Months
Produced: 500 cases