The Best Pedigreed Sauvignon Blanc in the World
Napa’s To Kalon Vineyard is the most famous (and expensive) cabernet sauvignon soil in North America—and Robert Mondavi uses it for sauvignon blanc.
There are some great perks about being first out of the gate when you’re a winemaker. It means, for example, that if you’re a company founded by legendary wine pioneer Robert Mondavi you own a large chunk of the most famous vineyard in America: Napa’s To Kalon. Planted in 1868 (no, that’s not a typo) the vineyard is regarded as one of the greatest places in the world to grow cabernet sauvignon. It produces the fruit not only for Mondavi’s famed $160 To Kalon Reserve, but also for the Mondavi-Rothschild joint venture Opus One ($500), Paul Hobbs’ 100-point Beckstoffer Dr. Crane ($600) as well as several wines not available in Canada from the esteemed winemaker Fred Schrader.
But we’re not here to talk about cabernet—we’re here to talk sauvignon blanc. Because the other benefit to being Robert Mondavi is that you can plant whatever you want on your very, very valuable land and so (notwithstanding it makes no practical financial sense to grow anything but cabernet) you can grow sauvignon blanc there because that’s what your founder wanted.
These sauvignon blanc vines are now 60 years old and they produce a wine that’s unlike anything you’ve tasted from New Zealand. For starters, the wine seems to have some time in oak (hence the “fume” in fume blanc), giving it a toasty body that’s followed by notes of ripe banana, citrus and Granny Smith apple. Unlike most sauvignon blancs, it’s happy to take some age (five years wouldn’t scare be in the least) and while it’s on the pricey side at $46, it is, given the lost-opportunity cost for the land, one of the best deals in California. And as such, it’s sometimes tricky to find—the BC Liquor Board is out at the moment, Co-op in Calgary often has it—but worth it for the story alone.