Wine of the Week: Dry Creek Vineyard 2016 Sauvignon Blanc

Sculpting the vines is how Tim Bell makes a sauvignon blanc less herbal and more fruit forward.Bell is the winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner – the Dry Creek Vineyard, 2016 Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc at $20.“The keys for us are choosing...

Wine of the Week: Dry Creek Vineyard 2016 Sauvignon Blanc

Sculpting the vines is how Tim Bell makes a sauvignon blanc less herbal and more fruit forward.

Bell is the winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner – the Dry Creek Vineyard, 2016 Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc at $20.

“The keys for us are choosing vineyards that we’ve worked with for years that we know give us the kind of flavors we want in this wine … keeping the fruit zone fairly open to sunlight and letting the grapes hang a little bit longer than we do our fume blanc.”

The sauvignon blanc is fleshy with flavors of ripe citrus, stone fruit and mineral. It finishes crisp, and it’s refreshing. It’s a lovely take on sauvignon blanc.

Producing a top-notch sauvignon blanc requires ample time in the vineyard, Bell said.

“I think making the canopy management, crop thinning and picking decisions for various blocks are what I agonize over most,” Bell said.

“Once it’s off the vine the yeast selection seems so important, as well, but those vineyard decisions really seem to have the most impact, given the fact that we don’t use new oak or malolactic fermentation in our sauvignon blanc wines.”

Asked why he’s a good fit to be a winemaker, Bell joked: “Multiple personalities! It’s the perfect blend of creativity, science, farming and good old sweaty labor. I appreciate all of those things.”

What first drew Bell to the world of wine was his palate.

“I’ve had a number of moments that added up along the way: when I tasted a rare two-barrel lot of Chevalier-Montrachet in a cellar in Burgundy and when I tasted a great Super Tuscan called Prunaio; both times it was like the clouds parted and a chorus of angels held forth.”

Bell, 52, earned his degree in Fermentation Science at UC Davis in 1994. He has been working at Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Vineyard for five years.

Knowing the devil is in the details, Bell said, is both his strength and his weakness.

“My attention to detail in the blending process truly serves me well,” he said. “I drive my crew a little crazy with all the different lot samples and sub-lot samples I want to taste and blend with! And my weakness? Always thinking there’s one more trial blend we ought to try before settling on what to put in the bottle!”

THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING

Sauvignon Blanc & Fume Blanc

TOP PICK

Dry Creek Vineyard

Dry Creek Vineyard, 2016 Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 14.5%, $20. ★★★★1/2

This sauvignon blanc is fleshy, with flavors of ripe citrus, stone fruit and mineral. It finishes crisp and it’s refreshing. It’s a lovely take on sauvignon blanc.

Tasty ALTERNATIVES

St. Supery, 2015 Dollarhide Estate Vineyards, Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 13.5%, $35. ★★★★1/2: A striking sauvignon blanc with crisp citrus notes, mineral and a touch of toast. Notes of grapefruit, melon and lime on the palate. Pitch perfect balance. Impressive.

Foursight, 2015 Charles Vineyard, Anderson Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 12.9%, $25. ★★★★1/2: A tasty sauvignon blanc with notes of lime, mineral and grapefruit. Creamy texture. Bright acidity. Will turn heads. Knockout.

Ferrari-Carano, 2015 Sonoma County Fume Blanc, 13.8%, $14. ★★★★: What makes this fume blanc a standout is its range. It has aromas and flavors of grapefruit, mango, peach and a kiss of vanilla. Creamy texture. Crisp finish. Tasty.

Husch, 2015 Mendocino Sauvignon Blanc, 13.8%, $15. ★★★: Subdued notes of grapefruit, melon, guava and mineral. Dry, with bright acidity, and a crisp finish.

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Peg Melnik’s Tasting Room blog

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