Babcock Vineyards2005 Sauvignon Blanc, Estate
(Sta. Rita Hills)
The newest Santa Barbara County AVA, Sta. Rita Hills, is gaining a burgeoning
reputation for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as cool climate Syrah. So why the heck I am
recommending a Sauvignon Blanc? Because this one from Babcock smacked me right between
the eyes and made my palate sit up and take notice. At fifteen percent alcohol, I might have
expected that, but its attractiveness is in the concentration of flavors and balance. The weighty
alcohol wasn’t even on my radar tasting screen.
But to digress: winemaker Bryan Babcock has always had a passion for Bordeaux varietals, even though the winery and estate vineyards are located in one of the coolest growing areas of California. Babcock has made some tasty Sauvignon Blancs under his “Eleven Oaks” label, but they were always blends of estate fruit and warmer Santa Ynez Valley fruit. What has changed the Sauvignon Blanc paradigm for Babcock was the knowledge that twenty years of grape growing brings. He found that to really get his estate fruit ripe requires plenty of leaf pulling and getting the grapes in the path of direct sunlight, boosting the hydrometer up to 26 - 27 degrees brix before picking.
The flavors of the 2005 version, as you might imagine, are aggressive but then I’ve always liked a wine that “makes a statement.” While Babcock’s previous Sauvignon Blancs might be described as grassy (and that’s a legitimate style), some had tinges of jalapeno and artichoke heart. This has none of that. Instead, it’s rich and assertive in the mouth with flavors of mango, juniper berry and cherimoya (yes!) along with a great sense of minerality that runs the entire length of the palate. The pungency of the flavor profile, as well as tightrope balancing act, make this an attractive foil for rosemary and garlic whole roasted chicken or something equally aggressive like a goat cheese and golden beet salad dotted with chives and a drizzling of balsamic.
Reviewed August 18, 2006 by Dennis Schaefer.
Dennis Schaefer has been tasting and writing about wine for over 30 years, propelled by a continuing curiosity and burgeoning enthusiasm for discovering what’s in the bottle. Blessed with catholic tastes, he enjoys everything from the obvious to the sublime. A major requirement is that the vineyard, winery and winemaker consistently perform well and fulfill their potential. Balance, concentration and complexity are key to the tasting experience but, in the end, the purpose of wine is simply to give pleasure.