Domestic Selection: Sauvignon Blanc, 1989. Cask One

American Wine Merchants’ Cask One Sauvignon Blanc is yet another one of those “negociant” wines which we happily wind up with every now and then. The closest way to describe a negociant wine accurately is to call it a “brand”, as it is not a winery. Some of the most famous wine-makers in France are negociants. A successful negociant (i.e., “one who negociates”) must be a mar­ket-savvy individual who com­bines a good palate with a good business sense and a solid grasp of market conditions. Put two such fellows together and you can create quite a team. The producers of this selection thoroughly fulfill the above qualifications. Bruce Ship­man, importer of “old and rare” wines with offices in Northern California and London, England, has been serving West Coast con­noisseurs for around a decade. His first Cask One offering was released about six years ago: a Chardonnay of classic proportions which he sold for less than half the price of another better known label produced from grapes harvested out of the very same vineyard!

Shipman’s co-venturer on cur­rent Cask One projects, Kurt Lo­renzi, has racked up a list of cred­its as long as your wine rack. These include nothing less than a Masters Degree in Enology from U.C. Davis as well as winemaking stints at Chappellet Winery in the Napa Valley and Estrella River Winery in Paso Robles, amongst others. In all, he has produced wines which have received over 64 awards in major competitions.

Originally from France, exten­sively planted in both Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, the distinc­tive Sauvignon Blanc grape con­tains a natural aromatic chemical compound with a rather long and somewhat unpronounceable name. This substance is recognizable in concentrations of as little as three parts per million as the familiar “grassy” aroma with which the va­riety is so closely associated. Some consumers find such “herba­ceousness” appealing and some don’t….very subjective. Some winemakers therefore try to accen­tuate this characteristic while oth­ers seek to keep it toned down.

This month’s example has a clear yellow hue and green plum, grape and pine aromas, not grassy. With a hint of oak flavor, fresh light acidity, a medium-full body, it is balanced, dry and very smooth on the palate, finishing soft.

Serve chilled with chicken or shrimp stir-fried with vegetables.

Cellaring Notes: Drink now and through 1992.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper

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