Sauvignon Blanc, 1982. Whitehall Lane Winery| Vintage Wine History and Information

by Paul Kalemkiarian Sr | August 1982

Whitehall Lane Winery is the fulfillment of the dream of two brothers and their families. They turned a successful home wine-making hobby into an award winning commercial winery. Each was a professional in another field. Alan Steen the plastic surgeon, and Art Finkelstein the architect, uprooted themselves from the hustle and bustle of Southern California and settled in a ranch in the heart of Napa Valley.

Their vineyards are one of the responsibilities of Alan. He oversaw the renovation of the old vineyards, and now tends to the 15 acres in surgeon fashion. After all, pruning is just a natural extension of his profession, he says!

The winery is the unique design of architect/winemaker Art. It is a veritable jewel of efficiency, both for winemaking and energy conservation. With careful layout and labor saving devices, Art can crush 200 tons of grapes with just one or two helpers. Mechanical cooling and heating are unnecessary, thanks to several energy efficient features of the design: an earthen berm on the sunny side of the winery, ceiling inner-space ventilation, night air exchange and massive insulation. A good blending of winemaking knowledge with architectural expertise.

The entire family work at it. Bunnie (Art’s wife) handles California marketing and day-to-day office operations, son Judd cleans tanks. Charlene (Alan’s wife) is the financial planner and newsletter editor; and their children Eva, Larry and Sarah work in the sales room and cellar. A true family primary endeavor and venture. Not a sideline.

I picked this wine about six months ago, when I visited their tasting room. Young Judd was doing the honors. He was very capable and polished in his presentation. That day, I determined to bring you this wine, but it had to wait this long to find a spot in our scheduling. Sauvignon blanc is a grape of many faces. Our California cuttings originally came from the most famous Sauternes-producing estate in France, Chateau d’Yquem, in the 1880’s. There, the inimitable dessert wines are made from blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes with ample botrytis to add the special character. Nearby, in the region of Graves, dry versions of Sauvignon Blanc have become tradition. Also in France, the grape is well known in parts of the Loire region like Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire. It was only in the 1970’s that Sauvignon Blanc became popular in the United States. Some rather exceptional examples have been produced to compete well with the French versions. The dry style typically has a grassy aroma, deep bold flavor of the grape simulating green olives, and ageing potential.

Our Whitehall version is quite different. It has a light yellow golden color. The aroma of fruit has mellowed and blended with the oak bouquet to a vanillin flowery nose. No grassy herbaceousness at all. Remarkable! The taste is full bodied, and follows the nose well. Big extractive, well balanced, with oak apparent. It is dry, yet mellow, and the acid balance is perfect. Serve chilled with most fish entrees.

Cellaring Notes: Will soften, develop complexities for 3 years.

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