Random thoughts on the world of wine, presented in no particular order.

Monday, May 4, 2009

One to avoid.

It was a free tasting at the local wine shop, and so I went to try what they had on the table.  The first wine was the Hess Lake County Sauvignon Blanc 2007.

The Lake County AVA is just north of Napa, and is where  a number of well-known wineries source grapes (Guenoc is probably the most popular, especially for their Sauvignon Blanc).  In fact, before Prohibition, Lake County produced more wine than any other region in California!

So, we had a wine from a reasonably premium appellation, made from a grape that's popular (read: well-suited) in that appellation, and from a producer that "everyone knows about," as Hess makes fairly popular Chardonnay and Cabernets.

So the wine should be good, right?

Um.  No.

The tasting note:

Lemon-yellow in the glass. Average intensity nose, showing grassy citrus. Pretty average sauvignon blanc, until the wine goes into the mouth... then it all falls apart.  The flavor is, to put it mildly, awful. Sour, unde-ripe citrus, grass, medicinal herbs, and green pepper -- not nice, crisp green pepper, more like green pepper that's been sliced apart and left out in the sun for a day. Ick. Just... ick. Balance is decent -- but it's hard to get past the flavor of the wine to make an assessment. It's a little sweet, but not horribly so. Moderate acidity, light bodied. The finish is, thankfully, not terribly long, but I would have preferred it to be shorter.  I can think of a large number of sauvignon blancs that are better, both at this price point and, indeed, less expensive. It's literally the worst sauvignon blanc I've had in years.  72 points.

At $10 a bottle, this isn't exactly cheap, either.  The problem is that there's a ton of good Sauvignon Blanc coming out of any number of appellations (Chile, New Zealand, California, even some Bordeaux wines cost less).  $10 can buy you some pretty damn good Sauvignon Blanc right about now.

Looking at Hess' winemaker's notes, from their website, we see "Harvest 2007 began early, with the looming possibility that both red and white varieties would ripen at the same time.  The weather turned cool, however, and the pace slowed substantially by mid-September, allowing for a break once all of the Lake County Sauvignon Blanc was picked."  In other words, "we picked the grapes early, because if the reds ripened at the same time as the whites, we'd have been screwed because there isn't enough labor available to get all the grapes out of the fields."

Which explains some of the wine's problems; if the grapes were under-ripe and rushed into harvest, the green pepper notes make a ton of sense, as do the medicinal herby quality (and not in a fresh, Ricola kind of way -- more in a nasty, smelly poultice kind of way).

Hess Lake County Sauvignon Blanc  2007 -- proof that a well-known name doesn't equal a well-made wine.

Edit: I should note that the other wines on the table were rather nice -- a Sauvignon Blanc from Reverie, in Napa, an Eden Valley Chardonnay from Courtney Benham at the Martin Ray winery, some Central Coast Pinot Noir, Merlot, and a very nice Cabernet Sauvignon from Cupcake.  But the Lake County Sauvignon Blanc was truly awful.

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