Mondavi 2006 Fumé Blanc and Honig 2008 SB

Today I'm writing capsule reviews of two Sauvignon Blancs (one a 'Fumé Blanc') that I've drunk in the last week.  I had help, I didn't down them both by myself.

The first was a Honig 2008 SB, made in Rutherford in Nappa Valley.  Unfortunately I didn't scribble down notes while I was drinking my first glass, and I've found that after a day in the fridge the taste changes a lot, so the second glass isn't too reliable as a guide.  I took it over to friends' house to drink with a meal, and they liked it.

It's been several days now, but I wasn't all that impressed by my first glass.  It ran in the $16 range, and I had doubts that it was worth that much.  It did have some subtlety of flavors.  The back of the Honig bottle just talks about helping the earth, nothing about the wine itself, so that's no help in jogging my memory.

The second bottle was a Robert Mondavi 2006 Fumé Blanc.  This one is more acidic, almost tart, which is how it's described on the back of the bottle.  Drinking the first glass I did get the 'minerality' mentioned on the back of the bottle, and maybe the silkiness from 'sur lie' barrel aging.

So what does that mean?  Some wines, most notably Chardonnay and Champagne, are aged on the lees (deposits of dead yeast or other bits of organic matter that have drifted downward) in the barrel instead of being transferred to a 'fresh', 'clean' barrel.  Supposedly that gives the wine a more 'yeasty' flavor.  If the winemaker stirs the yeast to give it even more of a kick, the French call that process batonnage.

How does a Fumé Blanc differ from SB?  It's all in the marketing.  SB grapes didn't have a good rep in California in the sixties because of the whole asparagus smell thing, so Robert Mondavi decided to try to tone down the grape's aggressiveness.  He barrel aged it and called it 'Fumé Blanc', as an allusion to France's Pouilly-Fumé. (Fumé means smoke in French.)  The name doesn't mean that the wine has necessarily been aged in oak barrels (or smoked, I guess).  It's just a marketing thing.

I picked up the Mondavi at Sam's in the $15 range, and I'd say it's worth it.  A nice summertime wine to drink with chicken salad or maybe fish from the grill.