Monday, February 26, 2007

Back to the 60s with a Smokin' Sauvignon Blanc

Chateau St. Jean wines are available everywhere--at least in LA. In the supermarkets, CostPlus, and of course in every pallets section of every Costco in the greater metro area. I recently picked up a bottle of their 2004 Fume Blanc from Sonoma County, and it turned out to be a good QPR wine with a 60s, retro feel to it.

What, you might ask, is fume blanc? It's actually a term unique to America, coined in 1968 by the legendary Napa winemaker Robert Mondavi, to describe a dry, oaked sauvignon blanc. Modeled after the Loire's Pouilly-Fume, the fume blanc wines were intended to be smoky, inflected with the taste of minerals, and elegant. They are a far, far cry from the New Zealand style sauvignon blancs popular today, with their tangy, grassy, and citrus flavors and aromas. Back in the 60s, though, this was as trendy as could be when it came to sauvignon blanc.

The 2004 Chateau St. Jean Fume Blanc from Sonoma County ($7.49, Costco) is pale straw in color. It has aromas of smoke and citrus, which are followed by round flavors of melons, citrus, pear, and oak. This wine was a little disjointed--the flavors didn't evolve smoothly, one into each other but seemed at times to almost fight for dominance. Initially, the smoke won out, and if you're going to try this you might want to open it a bit before you drink it and let some of the smoke blow off. As the wine sat in the glass, the melon and pear flavors began to move to the foreground. This wine might overwhelm delicate food, and I would recommend thinking of pairings that might work well with chardonnay, rather than sauvignon blanc if you want to serve this wine with dinner.

I thought the wine would be perfect with a salad, so we had it with a suitably retro, only-in-California fusion salad of hotly contested origin--the Chinese chicken salad--updated by the folks at Sunset magazine to include more vegetables (asparagus and avocado). It was good with the wine, and I suspect that the wine would do equally well with other retro favorites (like chicken tetrazzini), or even a simple (and timeless) roasted chicken.

Having this wine was another good reminder about wine trends and fashions. Soon the New Zealand style sauvignons will have to make way for something else--wonder what that will be? This is one of the true joys of being a wine enthusiast: no two bottles are the same, and the world of choices is always changing and evolving.


Anonymous said...

I'll have tio look for this, great suggestion. My family swills down Chard like nobodies business, there are 20 of us, and we have dinnre together every Sunday. This might be a nice alternative.

Dr. Debs said...

Welcome, Sara! Great blog, by the way. I've put a link to it in the sidebar. It's a good sub for chardonnay lovers, that's for sure. Some may even be fooled and think it IS chardonnay. Sunday dinners, huh? My standby is Nigella Lawson's butterflied lemon-garlic chicken and her roasted potatoes! Perfect with chard or fume.