Sauvignon blanc has been dear to my heart since my start as a winemaker. When I was studying at UC Davis in the mid 70s I’d often make a jaunt to Berkeley to browse the shelves at Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, and I’d often bring home northern Rhone syrahs and Loire sauvignon blancs to reflect on. Those bottles made indelible impressions during those formative years. So, a few years later when I planted my first vineyard in Ojai, I chose to plant syrah and sauvignon blanc.
I’ve been making sauvignon blanc from McGinley Vineyard since 1998 (back when it was called Westerly) and we’ve farmed the same two little blocks since. The site provides an exceptionally gorgeous example of the varietal, thanks largely to soils that would be abysmal for just about any other crop. In some sections the topsoil is as shallow as a foot and a half, with serpentine rock and fractured shale underneath. The wines from these poor soils are amazingly flavorful because the vines sense the scarcity of resources and, fearing death, direct all their energy toward maturing fruit rather than growing leaves (that way their genes may persevere).
I’ve been lucky to have connected with so many people who love our sauvignon blanc’s unique style. It’s a dazzling drink to pair with fresh cuisine—the folks at Chez Panisse have offered it on their wine list for years—I love it with oysters, or some good bread and goat cheese. As for aging, I begin to like our sauvignon blanc after a couple of years in bottle, though the 1998 is still drinking great, so this is a worthy white to exercise your cellar discipline!