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Mason Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Randy Mason has long been recognized by the wine industry as being one of the best Sauvignon Blanc producers in the country. A pioneer in California Sauvignon Blanc, the Mason Sauvignon Blanc set the standard for domestic producers to strive for, with their inaugural release (1996) receiving an unprecedented 91 points from Wine Spectator.
Building on the success and groundwork laid by the Mason Sauvignon Blanc, Randy and Megan started to develop a Sauvignon Blanc house with the launch of Pomelo in 2004. A fun and playful spin on California Sauvignon Blanc; Pomelo is a wild success among consumers and press alike. To balance out their Sauvignon Blanc collection, the Mason Reserve Sauvignon Blanc is rich, with an expressive style produced from a 40 year old pristine vineyard sitting on a volcanic cinder cone in Sonoma Valley. After listening to his customers and distributors, Mason decided to produce their first ever Pinot Grigio in 2009, called Three Pears as well as return to Merlot production in 2013, with its newest release, 60 North- a lively, expressive wine boisterious in fruit and spice.
With the increase in production and expansion into new and exciting brands, the Mason’s longed to showcase their wines in a casual atmosphere all their own. In the winter of 2006, they opened the Mason Cellars Oxbow Tasting Room in downtown Napa with complimentary tastings of their entire collection of red and white wines, all made by Randy Mason, set in a cozy country atmosphere featuring local artists’ paintings and other wine country mercantile goods.
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production and tourism, the Napa Valley is the AVA that brought worldwide recognition to California winemaking. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two are St.-Helena and the valley's newest AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap District, and Mt. Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
A crisp, refreshing variety that equally reflects both terroir and varietal character, Sauvignon Blanc is responsible for a vast array of wine styles. A couple of commonalities always exist, however—namely, zesty acidity and intense aromatics. The variety is of French provenance, and is important in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. It also shines in New Zealand and California, while Chile and South Africa are excellent sources of high-quality, value-priced Sauvignon Blanc. High-quality Sauvignon Blanc is also produced in Washington State, Australia, and parts of northern Italy.
In the Glass
From its homeland in the Loire Valley, where citrus, flinty, and smoky flavors shine through in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume, to Marlborough, New Zealand, where it is pungent, racy, and “green” (think grass, leaves, gooseberries, and bell peppers) and tastes of grapefruit and passionfruit, Sauvignon Blanc has something to offer every wine drinker. In Bordeaux, it is typically blended with Sémillon and Muscadelle to produce a softer, richer style. In California, any of the aforementioned styles can be emulated.
The freshness of Sauvignon Blanc’s flavor—from bell pepper and cut grass to passionfruit, gooseberry, and ripe kiwi lend it to a range of light, summery dishes including salad, seafood, and mild Asian dishes. Sauvignon Blanc settles in comfortably at the table with notoriously difficult foods like goat cheese and asparagus. When combined with Sémillon (and perhaps some oak), it can be paired with more complex seafood and chicken dishes.
Along with Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc is the proud parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. That green bell pepper aroma that all three varieties share is no coincidence—it comes from a high concentration of pyrazines (an herbaceous aromatic compound) inherent to each member of the family.