Surprising sauvignon blanc from Heritage Oak

Some things just can’t be explained.

Chalk it up to Mother Nature having her way.

Tom Hoffman, owner, grower and winemaker at the tranquil, rustic Heritage Oak Winery along the Mokelumne River in Victor made his recently released 2015 sauvignon blanc from estate fruit the same way he’s made it since he opened his winery in 2007. But for whatever reasons, there’s something different about the 2015 vintage, and he’s excited to let people know about it.

“The flavors are very similar,” Hoffman said, comparing the 2014, which recently sold out, to the 2015 version. “It’s the nose more than anything.”

The 2015 Heritage Oak Sauvignon Blanc ($18) has aromas of grapefruit that leap from the glass to a degree Hoffman previously never had experienced. The intensity of the grapefruit on the nose makes this wine unique, Hoffman said. The grapefruit is there big time on the nose and in my opinion, there also is a hint of fresh-cut green bell pepper, which is pleasing.

On the palate, the grapefruit and other citrus, such as lemons and limes, are at the forefront and the bell pepper softly and gracefully floats in the background. The color is almost clear. The body is light, the acid is medium-high, the flavor intensity and finish are medium-minus. It’s not a complex wine, but one to savor on a hot summer day or with grilled vegetables, fish with a squeeze of lemon, or other light dishes.

Hoffman said the protocol with his 2015 sauvignon blanc was consistent with past vintages of the varietal and similar in approach to all of his white wines: In the field, the canopy was left alone until just before the fruit was picked when some leaves were pulled, so the fruit wasn’t exposed to too much light. The fruit was picked, crushed and immediately pressed. Hoffman takes great measures to keep air away, even as he’s pressing, by adding dry ice to the vats before the juice goes into stainless steel fermentation tanks.

During fermentation, the must releases carbon dioxide naturally but at racking, Hoffman adds more dry ice to keep air out before the wine is bottled.

“I have to go out and take the CO2 out of the bottle, which is not very difficult, but I have to remember to do that, otherwise, it would be very spritzy,” Hoffman said. “That’s one of the things that I do that I don’t think everybody that makes sauvignon blanc does. I work hard to keep the air away from it.”

That’s why the wine’s color is clear and shows no signs of oxidation. The 2015 sauvignon blanc was picked at 23.1 brix on Aug. 10-11. The fruit settled for few days before yeast was added on Aug. 14. The wine was bottled in April and released in May.

Hoffman said 2015 was tough on growers.

“It was very light. Not too much fruit. The vines were really stressed from the dry seasons we had,” Hoffman said. “We had nice quality but as a grower, it was disappointing not to be able to pay all the bills.”

This year, the clusters taking shape right now appear to be abundant.

“It looks nice,” Hoffman said. “Heavy.”

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      Bob Highfill

      Record Sports Editor Bob Highfill is a wine enthusiast and has earned Level 3 certification with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust of London through the Napa Valley Wine Academy. Bob will share some of his experiences from his travels to Lodi and other prime wine locales in his blog and welcomes your suggestions, reviews and wine speak.
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