Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc 2017, California
Cost: $24-26
W ine drinkers often get stuck on a certain varietal from a certain place.
For instance, when we think of Napa Valley, most people will think of cabernet sauvignon. There is a good reason for that: some of the best cabs in the world come from Napa Valley.
But, as with most growing regions, other wines thrive there as well. Chardonnay and pinot noir often grow near each other because they like the same conditions. Think Burgundy or the Russian River Valley.
With cabs you often find great sauvignon blanc growing nearby, as in Bordeaux.
So what would you expect to find in Napa? Sauvignon blanc, of course. The problem is cabs fetch such high prices many growers are tempted to just go with cabernet sauvignon and sometimes a few other blending grapes.
Luckily for sauvignon blanc lovers, Cliff Lede (lay-dee) remembered that there are other wines besides cabernet sauvignon. He makes some of the best cabs on the planet, including single vineyard bottles that will blow you away.
But this sauvignon blanc takes a back seat to no wine. It is as good a sauvignon blanc as you will find, especially if you are looking for something not in the New Zealand style. Those wines often are highly acidic with sharp herb/citrus flavors. You either love or hate the wine that put New Zealand on the world wine map, and if you hate that style this wine is for you.
It is lively, elegant, full of lush fruit flavors with some density and richness. It is a full-flavored wine that fills your mouth with luscious citrus flavors. I loved it with a fish dinner and loved it as an after-dinner sip.
The wine is a gorgeous golden yellow in the glass with inviting aromas of lime and grapefruit. On the palate you get a delightful mix of flavors that can change with every sip. I picked up hints of lemon, lime, grapefruit, coconut and some spice. After one sip I thought I was sucking on a lemon drop, with less sweetness.
The grapes are 86 percent sauvignon blanc, 12 per cent semillon and 2 percent sauvignon vert. They come from select sites in Napa Valley. The primary vineyard is in eastern Rutherford, planted to an old vines heritage musqué clone and semillon. Two other old-vine sites are in Calistoga.
There also are some grapes from a cooler climate vineyard on the east side of Napa to add vibrant acidity and finesse. Some of the sauvignon vert vines were planted in 1947.
The grapes were picked at night, when it is cool, arriving at the winery at dawn. Then they were kept cool in low-oxygen conditions. About 75 per cent of the grapes underwent gentle whole-cluster pressing with the rest destemmed before spending 6-12 hours in skin contact before pressing.
Fermentation took place in 58 per cent French oak barrels, 37 percent stainless steel tanks and 5 per cent concrete eggs. After reaching the desired level of dryness the wine was aged on its lees and went through daily or weekly stirring.
I would serve this wine chilled but not ice cold. If you cool the wine in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes take it out about 10 minutes before serving. As the wine warms up in your glass it will start to release those mouth-watering aromas and flavors.
The winery made 8,428 cases, so it should be widely available.
Winery: Cliff Lede Vineyards sits amid 60 acres in the heart of the famed Stags Leap District in Napa Valley. Lede bought the land in 2002 with the idea to focus on producing wines from estate vineyards.
He replanted many of the blocks, naming each after his favorite rock songs and albums. Some of the rock blocks names are “Whole Lotta Love,” “My Generation,” “Purple Haze” and “Abbey Road.” Sometimes the winemakers will produce a wine from two blocks and create names such as “Cinnamon Stardust,” or “Lonely Wizard.”
The tasting room is spectacular. It is a great place to sip wine and look out over the vineyards, especially when the weather is nice enough to enjoy the outside air. The Lede complex is a fun place to visit. I was at the sleek, modern facility a few years ago and enjoyed the reserve tasting room they call Backstage. Lede collects art, and part of his collection was displayed there.
The show included images from Stanley Mouse, who was most famous for producing concert posters and album covers for the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane. The winery is filled with huge windows and wooden beams, making for a spectacular setting to taste wine.
Lede bought Breggo Cellars in Anderson Valley in 2009 and renamed it FEL Wines, in honor of his mother, a home winemaker who inspired his early interest in wine. Later he bought the Savoy vineyard from which the winery makes vineyard-specific chardonnay and pinot noir.
In 2015, Cliff Lede Vineyards achieved both Napa Green Land and Napa Green Winery certification.
In 2005, Cliff opened the luxurious five-room Poetry Inn, the only accommodations in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District. Designed by world-renowned architect Howard Backen, Poetry Inn is perched on the same hillside as the Poetry Vineyard, above the Silverado Trail overlooking the valley floor.
Poetry Inn is run like a private villa, mixing elegance with subtlety. Each room features sweeping valley views, a wood-burning fireplace, a private balcony, and both indoor and outdoor showers.
Michael loved the Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc with the flounder.
Goes with: We had the elegant Cliff Lede sauvignon blanc with some nice fried flounder. It was a perfect pairing.
The crisp acidity of the wine nice matched the flavorful flounder, which I laced with lemon juice. The weight of the sauvignon blanc held its own with the fried fish, which can overpower lighter white wines.
We added Spanish rice that came from a mix from Zatarain’s, and a tossed salad. It was a great Friday night meal that I fixed in less than an hour. The Spanish rice is another one of Zatarain’s mixes that makes fixing a complex dinner easy. I just added water and a can of diced tomatoes and simmered it all on the stove for 25 minutes. It had a lot of flavor and tasted like I had whipped it up myself.
We brought the flounder back from Edisto Beach. They were small, thin filets, which I like because they are easy to handle and full of flavor. I coated them with House Autry seafood blend mixed with five-pepper blend and Morton Nature’s Seasons. Then I pan fried them for about 4 minutes, turning them over halfway through. I fried in batches of 2-3 small filets and kept the cooked ones in a dish in the oven at 250 degrees.
This really was a simple meal to fix, but it felt like an elegant meal.
The wine would pair well with most seafood dishes, whether with a cream sauce, or simply fried or grilled. I would try it with roast chicken, turkey or possibly even duck. And it will match up with many vegetarian dishes or with hearty cheeses.

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