If you’re a fan of Napa Valley wine, the Groth name will likely conjure memories of Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, the 1985 Reserve Cab garnered a perfect 100-point rating from wine critic Robert Parker. Would you be surprised to learn that they’re now making a white wine from 100% estate-grown fruit?
Groth has always made white wines from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but they have historically been blends of estate fruit and grapes purchased from other growers. Beginning with the 2019 vintage, they will offer a white Bordeaux-style blend made from grapes grown on the Oakville property.
The genesis of this project dates to 1994, when the Groth family looked closely at the soils underlying their vineyards. What they found was illuminating and prompted big changes: the plots lying furthest to the east had a higher proportion of clay. All were planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, which prefers well-draining, gravelly soils to cooler, wetter clay.
Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, however, thrive on clay soils, producing wines of texture, depth, and complexity. The Groths decided to uproot the Cabernet Sauvignon and replant with the two white varieties, an investment requiring a significant amount of time (and money) before it would generate any return.
Years later, Suzanne Groth, President and CEO, is proud to offer the first vintage of her family’s Estate White Wine, which is certified Napa Green :
“Our greatest asset, aside from our people, is the land that we own. We are so fortunate to have this amazing piece of property right in the heart of Oakville and, much like the Reserve Cabernet, the Estate White has been crafted to showcase the quality and unique character of the fruit from this vineyard.”
I was thrilled to be offered the chance to sample this premier offering.
Note: I received this wine as a media sample. That said, all opinions expressed here are my own.
According to Cameron Parry, Director of Winegrowing, the Estate White allows the unique character of each individual plot to shine. Harvesting is conducted in much the same way as for the Reserve Cabernet:
“We are not locking ourselves into any specific blend scenarios. Rather, we are going to follow the lead of what each vintage gives us.”
With every vintage there are new challenges and possibilities, all of which the winemaking team takes into account when crafting the blend and deciding how (and for how long) the wine will age. All of the grapes are whole-cluster pressed, ensuring that primary fruit aromas are protected. After pressing and being allowed to settle, the grape must is divided among multiple types of vessels for alcoholic fermentation: second-fill and neutral oak barrels; acacia barrels; concrete eggs; and stainless steel tanks are all part of the routine.
Fermentation occurs low and slow – that is, at cool temperatures at an unhurried pace – after which the wine rests on the fine lees for three months. Malolactic conversion is discouraged so that acidity remains high. The team then tastes each batch and decides on a final blend. The wine ages an additional three months before bottling.
Composition: Sauvignon Blanc (79%); Sémillon (21%)
Color: Pale lemon, clear at the rim.
Nose: A melody of citrus (white grapefruit; clementine; lemon zest) with ripe yellow pear; a fleeting whiff of white flowers; a whisper of vanilla with a faint note of nutmeg.
Palate: Citrus notes as on the nose, with hay and dried grass; dried orange and lemon peel; acidity is medium+ as is the finish, which lingers with bittersweet flavors of candied grapefruit peel and beeswax.
I found this wine to be very well-balanced with respect to structure. The fruit was ripe and kept in check by tart acidity. Oak influence was pleasant i.e., subtle. The vanilla and nutmeg notes were complements to the overall experience, not drivers of it.
For wine lovers (like me) who shy away from varietal Sauvignon Blanc because it tends to overwhelm the senses, give this one a try. It’s complex and intense but, somehow, still subtle. It’s a beautiful wine, one that will pair nicely with food. Or with good conversation.
I opened the Groth Estate White with grilled salmon and a dish that was new to me: baked risotto. The recipe is available on the New York Times Cooking app and is a snap to make. The herbal, green notes of the wine were kindred spirits with the risotto and livened up the simple salmon. All in all, a very tasty pairing!
Whether you’re a fan of white Bordeaux or just crave a Sauvignon Blanc with subtlety, the Groth Estate White is well worth a try. I will happily drink this wine again!