One of the things that makes me so cranky about California wine is that the state produces lots of cheap wine of decent quality and lots of expensive wine of decent quality. What it doesn’t do nearly enough is produce cheap wine of expensive wine quality. That’s why there are always so few California wines in the $10 Hall of Fame.
Which is why I was so happy to taste the Hess ($11, sample). Hess is a top-flight $20 and up producer, and always shows up on lists of wines to buy that deliver quality and value. And now they’re making a very impressive cheap sauvignon blanc.
This is a wine that that is balanced, crisp and fresh, and isn’t bothered by Hess’ policy of oaking even wines — like this — that usually don’t need oak. In this, it’s all California, all the time, which means no dominating citrus like a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, but lots and lots grassiness – the smell of a new mown lawn. There’s even what seems to be lemongrass, for those who look for those kinds of descriptors.
Serve this chilled on its own or with grilled or boiled seafood. It’s a terrific Sunday afternoon porch sipping wine as the days get cooler, and would even be worth keeping around the house as the holidays approach.