Enjoy K-J Vintner’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

In many respects this wine will confound the most ornery critic who believes it’s impossible to get this level of quality at an everyday price. But the proof is in the glass.

The sourcing of the grapes, of course, is key to the wine’s success. Lake, Mendocino, Sonoma and Santa Barbara counties contributed their best efforts, with fruit grown in vineyards where the summer shine shines strong during the daytime, ripening the grapes to perfection, yet where the maritime influence of the Pacific Ocean–whose temperature seldom rises above 60 degrees even in August–means that nights are chilly. That meteorological reality preserves the fresh acidity that is essential for the wine to have balance.

The Meyer lemon, apricot purée, Key lime pie, fig and honeysuckle flavors are so delicious, you just want to gobble up the whole bottle! There’s also a pronounced minerality, a word that has been in debate recently among experts as to its meaning. To me, it’s not so much a flavor as a feeling in the mouth that gives the wine a precise, laser-like mouthfeel, flinty or steely or what have you. A very good wine to which the winemaker has added a touch of Chardonnay–unusual in Sauvignon Blanc–an inspiration that must account for the extra layers of richness. There’s also a dollop of the comparatively rare grape variety, Sémillon, a common practice in Bordeaux white wines. I always find that Sémillon, added to Sauvignon Blanc in a small percentage, makes the wine taste and feel rounder and “fatter,” even somewhat oily in a good way; it also adds the spicy, exotic taste of white–not black–figs.

By the way, if you take a close look at the technical notes of this wine, you’ll see that tiny amounts–varying from less than one percent up to 2.2 percent–of other grape varieties also made the cut. These include Viognier and Riesling. You might not think that such miniscule quantities would make any difference, but think of salt in your soup: a little goes a long way. In the case of the 0.3% Riesling in the blend, it seems to give the wine that extra boost of acidity, just a tiny squirt of lime juice, that makes it not just clean but squeaky clean.

To my mind, getting California Sauvignon Blanc right is one of the hardest things to do, harder than with Cabernet Sauvignon (to which Sauvignon Blanc is related genetically). A white wine always shows more faults (if there are any) than a red wine, which, being heavier and more tannic, hides its errors more effectively. The biggest problem with too many Sauvignon Blancs is excessive sweetness, which makes the wines cloying: the first sip may be pleasant, but after a second, the wine turns sugary and candied. While the K-J 2012 VR Sauvignon Blanc does have an edge of sweet honey, it is not a sweet wine. It calls to mind pairing with a summery salad of bitter greens, figs, pink grapefruit and chevre, and certainly will marry well with modern Thai, Vietnamese, Burmese, Filipino and Chinese fare.