Summertime in a Glass, an education and advocacy organization for the Sauvignon Blanc varietal, has just concluded a series of events designed to bring the California Sauvignon Blanc wine industry together to focus on the grape and the wine.
Attendees of the Summertime in a Glass California Sauvignon Blanc Symposium.
Nearly 50 members of the California Sauvignon Blanc industry, including growers, winemakers and educators, gathering at the Martinelli Center in Livermore on May 19, to teach, taste, learn, discuss, and share information on the exceptional Sauvignon Blanc grown and produced in the numerous growing regions in central and northern California. Summertime in a Glass (SIAG) hosted the symposium to promote this, often under-appreciated, wine grape and wine, which is widely produced in California.
As the historic home of California Sauvignon Blanc, the Livermore Valley was the most appropriate place for this event. The first international Gold Medal awarded to a California wine originated here. That event was the 1889 International Paris Exposition (about 113 years before the well known “Judgment of Paris”) when Cresta Blanca Winery, owned by Charles Wetmore, submitted a ‘dry white wine’ for the competition. The wine was a “Sauterne-style” wine composed of Sauvignon Blanc along with Semillon, grown from cuttings, that, ironically, originated at Château d’Yquem in southern Bordeaux. Cresta Blanca Winery was designated a California historical landmark in 1957 and is owned by the Wente family.
The growers and producers in attendance were from Arroyo Seco, Livermore Valley, Napa Valley, Mendocino, Sonoma County, and Paso Robles, five exceptional Sauvignon Blanc growing regions. The objective of the event was for the various facets and segments of the industry, including growers, producers, sommeliers, wine buyers and wine educators to discuss, interact, share ideas, and expectations and, ultimately, promote the grape and the wine from the state.
The Producers Panel, from left to right, Jeff Meier, Karl Wente, and Michael Griva
The symposium was kicked-off by Bryan Dias, Executive Director of Summertime in a Glass. He made some welcoming remarks and then introduced the first panel, which consisted of Jeff Meier, President and Chief Operating Officer, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines; Karl Wente, fifth generation Winegrower and Winemaker, Wente Family Estates, and Michael Griva, President of the Arroyo Seco AVA and vigneron of Griva Vineyards. The panel spoke about the varying terroir in the different regions of California as well as production methods and approach.
The subsequent panel was a sommelier-lead discussion of the flavor profiles associated with Sauvignon Blanc from the various California appellations and also compared and contrasted them with the Sauvignon Blanc produced in the renowned Loire Valley of France, New Zealand, and Chile. Catherine Fallis, aka the grape goddess, moderated this panel with Deborah Parker Wong, Senior Editor of the Tasting Panel/The SOMM Journal, and Celebrity Sommelier Christopher Sawyer. During the sommelier panel, several different SIAG member Sauvignon Blanc wines were poured including: Steven Kent Winery, McFadden Farm, Bernardus Winery, J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines, Herb Lamb Vineyards and Clouds Rest Vineyards.
The Sommelier Panel from left to right, Catherine Fallis, Chris Sawyer, and Deborah Parker Wong
The final panel was a guided technical tasting of a variety of Sauvignon Blanc bottlings from Summertime in a Glass members including: Peterson Winery, St. Supéry Estate Vineyards and Wines and Mercy Vineyards. Other exceptional member wines tasted included: Yorkville Cellars, Phifer-Pavitt – Date Night Wines, Vina Robles, McGrail Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Wente Vineyards, and Cuda Ridge Wines.
Later in the week, Summertime in a Glass sponsored an industry and media ‘meet and greet’ at Sonoma’s Kick Ranch, hosted by SIAG member Dick Keenan, owner of Overland Wines. Kick Ranch is nestled on a beautiful hillside on the western flank of Spring Mountain and is the source of beautiful fruit used in many Sonoma and Napa wines. This was a casual event where many winemakers, growers, and members of the wine media interacted and discussed California Sauvignon Blanc.
Finally, as a capstone to a month of Sauvignon Blanc focus was a single varietal tasting at the Napa Valley Wine Academy on June 21, co-sponsored by Summertime in a Glass and Discover Sonoma County Wines. The tasting was aimed at sommeliers, buyers, and wine educators to help them provide diversity in their wine lists while educating the public on the many amazing California Sauvignon Blanc available for their programs. The event was moderated and guided by celebrity sommelier Christopher Sawyer.
Each of these events led to the development of numerous strategies, concepts, and approaches for promoting the grape and the wine. A key idea is that California can produce a world class bottle of Sauvignon Blanc at a highly competitive price, unlike many other varietals, when viewed in light of global competition. Additionally, since California boasts such a wide-range of terroir and diversity of winemaking styles, there is no definitive “California style” and it was concluded that there shouldn’t be. There is a California Sauvignon Blanc out there for everyone. Because of this diversity and its food-friendly nature, California Sauvignon Blanc can be enjoyed year-round with seasonal foods, ethnic cuisine, and on your front porch. See more on the Summertime in a Glass website at www.SauvBlanc.org.
More than 30 members of the California Sauvignon Blanc industry attended the event at Kick Ranch.
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Talking points, strategies and ideas generated:
- A world-class bottle of wine at a competitive price.
- You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a great bottle of California Sauvignon Blanc.
- From seasonal produce or seafood to ethnic cuisine, California Sauvignon Blanc is a year-round food wine.
- Ideal for your porch during the summer and perfect with Dungeness crab in the winter, California Sauvignon Blanc should is always a go-to wine.
- No other region can match the breadth of style and diversity of California Sauvignon Blanc.
- With the state’s tremendous variety of terroir and artistry of winemaking approaches, there is a California Sauvignon Blanc for everyone.
- From ripe, fruit-driven wine to crisp acidity to luscious mouthfeel and oak, there is a California Sauvignon Blanc to suit any taste or occasion.
- Due to its price point and food-friendly considerations, California Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent wine for by-the-glass programs.
- Also due to price point and its appeal for pairing with a wide-variety of foods, California Sauvignon Blanc is a good choice for a tremendous diversity of on-premise locations – from bar & grill settings to fine dining to ethnic restaurants.
- California Sauvignon Blanc enjoys a small variation in price window (from low to high), for the most part. This makes these wines accessible to a larger proportion of the wine-buying market.
- Wine buyers and others in this role need to be educated that California Sauvignon Blanc is a great year-round wine and the mentality that it should be “in” by spring and “out” by Labor Day is outdated, ineffective, and inaccurate.
- Wine consumers must be educated on this as well and this is dependent on educating those that hand-sell California Sauvignon Blanc.
- California Sauvignon Blanc is not just a “pre-dinner” wine, but an ideal pairing with a wide-range of cuisine.
- With young people’s wine interest increasing and California Sauvignon Blanc’s friendly price-point and diversity, it can play a role as an “entry-level” wine for this demographic.
- With the wide-range of styles and profiles of Sauvignon Blanc produced in the state, there is no clear-cut or black and white “California style,” nor should there be. There is too much diversity to effectively “pigeon-hole” the state’s wine.
- The above creates individual marketing, content development, and partnership opportunities but also requires education and messaging to buyers and consumers.
- Producers should be encouraged to form creative partnerships and develop content and messaging unique to their wines, while still fitting in with the messages developed here. This can include working with chefs to create dedicated pairings, succinct information on style and flavor profile, suggested pairings, etc. These can be effective in the restaurant, the tasting room, and for sales channel support.
- Summertime in a Glass is ideally suited to bring this education, form needed partnerships, and develop and promote these messages to both consumers and the wine industry on California Sauvignon Blanc.