Fans of the many excellent New Zealand sauvignon blancs that have become ubiquitous in this country will notice a distinct difference in the style of the 2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle Horse Heaven Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from Washington's Columbia River Valley (about $15 at big box stores and wine shops).
Where the New Zealanders are all about the gooseberry-grapefruit punch right up front, the Washington style is more subtle but no less crisp and clean. Part of that is owing to fermenting all but 21 percent of the grapes in stainless steel, the smaller fraction being fermented in old French oak before all of the new wine is aged one month on the lees. The result is a complex wine with admirable structure.
This superior sauv blanc opens with understated grass and citrus aromas on the nose and moves smoothly into a palate notable for delicate lime and white nectarine flavors as well as a most welcome mineral edge. The finish is perfectly clean, with notes of lime and clementine keeping the party going right to the end, thus adding another entry to our short list of perfect summer wines.
We'd pair the Horse Heaven sauv blanc with fresh, local scallops sauteed in lemon and a bit of this wine, with cucumber-y coldwater oysters from Oregon and Washington waters, or with a main dish salad of grilled seasonal fruits. We'd also be happy to sip it before and after dinner all on its own.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.