THE YEAR'S BEST
  Each issue Wine & Spirits focuses on one variety or group of related wines and selects the best wines in that category for the year.

August 2003

Over the last twelve months, Wine & Spirits tasted 216 sauvignon blancs.

The following 11 wines received the strongest praise from our critics. A list of all sauvignon blancs tasted, with the recommended wines highlighted, is included with subscription copies.

Sauvignon Blancs
94 I J. Rochioli $25
2002 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Tom Rochioli has a way with sauvignon. He tinkers with it, barrel fermenting a small portion to give the wine structure, boldness, a wide-ranging scale, but he doesn't push, and the wine doesn't feel manipulated. After all the ripe expression of lime and tangerine, the flavors pull back, ending clean, lively and fresh. There's a subtlety to this wine that sets it apart, something you might appreciate as the day cools to evening on the wrap-around porch, with thick-cut veal chops on the grill. Rochioli Vineyards, Healdsburg, CA
 

 
93 I Joel Gott $15
2002 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Light and luxurious, this wine's firm, supple texture is sparked by a touch of CO2. It tastes of grapes drinking in the California sun, pouring out fresh lime flavors across a velvet richness. Give this time to develop and that suave, rounded texture will tend to any sort of shellfish, from cockles to Dungeness crab. A lovely, clean, fresh white. Joel Gott Wines, Oakville, CA
 

 
93 I Araujo $32
2001 Napa Valley Eisele Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

Decant this, and the jasmine spice of oak slowly gives way to a hint of lime zest underneath. Then lime fills in with air, melding with the oak, creating a smooth, rich cut of sauvignon. It's a dry style, parallel to a fine Graves, built to develop over several years in the cellar. The substantial structure of the wine will enhance roast sweetbreads or roast veal. Araujo Estate Wines, Calistoga, CA
 

 
92 I Groth $15
2001 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

A few moments of air peel back the green fleshiness of this sauvignon to reveal a frisky, firm and refreshing white. The fruit has a peaches-and-cream richness, along with a structure that seems to carry the flavor of the earth. Clean and brisk, this makes a great accompaniment to a light and creamy crab stew. Groth Vineyards & Winery, Oakville, CA
 

 
92 I Kunde $15
2002 Sonoma Valley Magnolia Lane Sauvignon Blanc

When first poured, this wine's plushness carries a thyme and sage spiciness, a minerality that builds on the texture, lifting and rounding to match the flavor of monkfish roasted with green herbs. With air, the wine balances en pointe, its flavors focused and framed like halibut in parchment with lemon and artichokes. And the density and fullness continues to evolve, lasting with freshness for Cantonese steamed fish with ginger and scallions. Kunde Estate Winery, Kenwood, CA
 

 
91 I Flora Springs $22.50
2001 Napa Valley Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc

A sequence of green herbs and spices rises out of this wine and lasts. You might find the fatness of green olives, the sharper edges of green peppercorn or tarragon. It sounds like a recipe for Proven¨al chicken with tomatoes and lentils, a dish it would complement and brighten. (1,800 cases) Flora Springs Winery & Vyds., St. Helena, CA
 

 
91 I Mazzocco $16
2001 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc

Leesy from its time in neutral oak, this wine needs plenty of air to show its green olive flavors along with the acidity of a tart lime. It develops into a complex and heady blast of flavor, layering kumquat over that lime, shining through resilient and long. Decant this for a rich seafood stew. (363 cases) Mazzocco Vineyards, Healdsburg, CA
 

 
91 I Robert Mondavi $18
2001 Napa Valley Fumé Blanc

Oak rises above the deeper mineral tones of this wine like a boat on a green sea. The fruit is enriched to lemon curd and a custard-smooth foam of lime. Yet it all remains lifted, ready for a veal chop Milanese. Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville, CA
 

 
91 I Origin-Napa $23.50
2001 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Fragrant and a bit wild, this is more floral than typical sauvignon, summoning a green lily-stem scent reminiscent of viognier. But sauvignon it is, grown on the 16-acre Gamble Ranch in Yountville, and under those floral notes earthy scents ride through the aroma, the clarity of rainwater, the figgy fruit giving a long, fresh goodness for a Japanese fish stew, or grilled tuna with white miso sauce. (725 cases) Davies & Gamble, St. Helena, CA
 

 
91 I Wildhurst $11
2002 Lake County Sauvignon Blanc

Full-flavored and immediately appealing, this robust young wine has the green scent of fresh anise. A quinine edge of acidity cuts all the fullness, raising that green line of flavor to last. Both simple and sophisticated, for a calamari steak sautéed with green olives. Wildhurst Vineyards, Kelseyville, CA