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Gamble Family Vineyards Heart Block Sauvignon Blanc 2013
With 100 years of agriculture in Napa, it comes as no surprise that the heart and soul of Gamble Family Vineyards is deeply rooted in the soil. Founded by third-generation farmer Tom Gamble in 2005, Gamble Family Vineyards owns prime estate vineyards in many of Napa’s most respected AVAs—Oakville, Mt. Veeder, Rutherford and Yountville. Its winery and by invitation-only tasting room have a quiet presence, sitting modestly in an isolated nook off Highway 29 in the heart of Napa Valley’s Oakville AVA. Set back from the main road, Gamble’s mission here is to carry on the heritage of farming that his ancestors sowed when they came to Napa as cattle ranchers in 1916. They left with him a legacy of deep and abiding affinity for the land from which came not only their livelihood, but also a life full of purpose. Having shadowed his father on the family ranches as a child, Tom has had a hand in the land since an early age. In 1981, at the age of 20, he purchased his first vineyard with several partners, making him the first Gamble to begin growing grapes commercially. ?Given this legacy, one does not continue farming for dispassionate reasons alone—there are easier ways to make a living. And thus, taking the next step and putting my name on a bottle of wine does not come lightly,? says Gamble. Winemaker Jim Close follows Gamble Family Vineyards’ mission of producing wines that seamlessly bring together elegance, balance, nuance, with good structure and moderate alcohol, while embracing and highlighting the characteristics Napa Valley terroir imparts on the wines. Jim Close began his winemaking career in the southern Languedoc region of France, and has made every bottle of Gamble Family Vineyards wine since 2005.
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production as well as tourism, the Napa Valley was responsible for bringing worldwide recognition to California winemaking. In the 1960's, a few key wine families settled the area and hedged their bets on the valley's world-class winemaking potential—and they were right.
The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when producers scooped up vineyard lands and planted vines throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, and today Napa is home to hundreds of producers ranging from boutique to corporate. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Napa whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that claim specific characteristics based on situation, slope and soil. Farthest south and coolest from the influence of the San Pablo Bay is Carneros, followed by Coombsville to its northeast and then Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford. Above those is the warm St. Helena and the valley's newest and hottest AVA, Calistoga. These areas follow the valley floor and are known generally for creating rich, dense, complex and smooth reds with good aging potential. The mountain sub appellations, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs, include Stags Leap District, Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley (farther east), Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain District and Diamond Mountain District. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from a lot of 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. However, a couple of commonalities always exist—namely, zesty acidity and intense aromatics. The variety is of French provenance, and here is most important in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. It also shines in New Zealand, California, Australia and parts of northeastern Italy. Chile and South Africa are excellent sources of high-quality, value-priced Sauvignon blanc.
In the Glass
From its homeland In Bordeaux, winemakers prefer to blend it with Sémillon to produce a softer, richer style. In the Loire Valley, it expresses citrus, flint and smoky flavors, especially from in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume. Marlborough, New Zealand often produces a pungent and racy version, often reminiscent of cut grass, gooseberry and grapefruit. California produces fruity and rich oak-aged versions as well as snappy and fresh, Sauvignon blancs, which never see any oak.
The freshness of Sauvignon Blanc’s flavor lends it to a range of light, summery dishes including salad, seafood and mild Asian cuisine. Sauvignon Blanc settles in comfortably at the table with notoriously difficult foods like artichokes or 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.