Galerie Equitem Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Knights Valley
What: For several years the hot topic among wine people has been terroir. They talk about how the grapes express the soil and climate of a particular place.
Terroir and wine are interesting to talk about, but it’s not a new discovery. The French realized long ago that certain grapes grow better in certain locations. That is the essence of the appeal of wines from such places as Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Loire Valley.
Now more winemakers all over the world are paying attention to what goes on in the vineyards and not tinkering with the wine too much after picking the grapes.
Galerie wines are all about the terroir. Laura Diaz Muñoz makes only four wines, two Sauvignon Blancs and two Cabernet Sauvignons. She grows one of each type in Napa Valley and one of each type in Knights Valley in Sonoma County.
She handles both Sauvignon Blancs the same; the main difference is where the grapes are grown. You can taste a real difference when you drink the two wines. Both are outstanding, but I prefer the Equitem to the Naissence.
The Equitem is somewhat more elegant, with crisp acidity and a touch of mineral character. The Knights Valley grapes are grown at a cooler temperature, higher altitude and in volcanic soil, so the grapes ripen slowly and retain the mineral flavors from the soil.
The Latin word for knight, Equitem is named for the valley in which the grapes are grown. The region sits at the base of Mount St. Helena, surrounded by mountainous countryside. The inland vineyards are sheltered, making them among the warmest in Sonoma County. But they remain slightly cooler than neighboring Napa Valley.
The Equitem opens with melon, pear and lemon aromas. The aromas don’t fade, building as the wine opens. The wine is a pale yellow, almost clear in the glass. The real treat is when you take a sip and the flavors explode on your tongue.
The flavors are complex and subtle, showing some grapefruit and pear with a lingering mineral character that won’t overpower your food. This is a food friendly wine.
The grapes are from the Kellogg West Vineyard at the northern end of Sonoma, just across the border from Napa. After picking, the grapes are aged Sur Lie (soor LEE) for six months in 55 percent neutral French oak (5 percent new oak), 45 percent in stainless steel tanks.
The lees are yeast and grape particles that form in the barrel. They give white wines more complexity and creaminess if handled properly. The Galerie wines are stirred twice per week in barrels and weekly in tank to develop a complex mouthfeel.
The result is a wine very much in the Old World style. It is similar to a Sancerre from France, or even an Albariño from Laura’s native Spain.
She gained a love of wine at the family dinner table. Her earliest memories are of aromatic Albariños and of smelling the sea in every glass. Laura studied food science but quickly declared her intention to work in vineyards and wineries.
She earned a Master of Science in Viticulture and Enology from the Polytechnic University of Madrid. She then worked at wineries in Spain, New Zealand and Chile before arriving in Napa.
For the past several years, she has worked with her mentor, Chris Carpenter, the highly acclaimed winemaker for Cardinale, Lokoya, La Jota Vineyard Co., and Mt. Brave. “What you do with these wines will last forever,” Chris told her, “so relax and be patient: the wines will provide the answers.”
I first tasted the Galerie at a lunch for Carpenter in Atlanta earlier this year. We had three of his powerful wines, with particular focus on Mt. Brave, and the one Sauvignon Blanc. I was impressed at how it more than held its own with the hearty Cabs.
Winery: Galerie is owned by Jackson Family Wines, which has several outstanding labels, including La Jota, Lokoya, Mt. Brave, Cardinale, Freemark Abbey, Arrowood, La Crema, Matanzas Creek, Murphy-Good and Kendall-Jackson, as well as wineries in Australia, Chile, France and Italy.
The first vintage for Galerie was 2011. The winery showcases two of California’s foremost wine-growing regions – Napa Valley and Knights Valley.
The labels of Galerie, painted by artist Malia Pettit, depict a bold vine creeping across the canvas of wine bottles. Each label is a piece of the whole, representing the unique expression of each wine through the constant lens of Winemaker Laura.
It is interesting and educational to taste the two Sauvignon Blancs or the two Cabs side by side to experience the difference in these two world-class wine growing regions.
Goes with: We had the Galerie Equitem Sauvignon Blanc with broiled lobster tails, wild rice and a tossed salad. It was an easy meal to fix on a weeknight, and the wine made it really special.
My wife Teri loved the creamy flavor, saying it tasted almost like a Chardonnay. The smooth, mineral tastes of the wine perfectly complimented the briny and buttery tastes of the lobster.
The wine would pair well with all kinds of seafood such as grilled swordfish, sea bass or flounder. It also would go well with pasta and cream sauce and soft, smooth cheeses.
Laura thinks both Sauvignon Blancs would be perfect for Spanish foods. “They exhibit natural acidity and mineral characters that complement the smoky aromas, salty sea flavors and fresh ingredients found in my recipes,” she said.
Galerie Equitem Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Knights Valley