Best American Wines $15 & Under: Sauvignon Blanc
2006 Bernardus Monterey County Sauvignon Blanc ($15)
One of the best producers in California's Carmel Valley, Bernardus makes top-quality reds (its flagship Marinus Cabernet blend is well worth tracking down) along with this tart, lively Sauvignon Blanc. It's a svelte white with the scent of fresh-cut grass.
2006 Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc ($12)
Sonoma County's Geyser Peak has made a specialty of Sauvignon Blanc, and that focus pays off here in this lively white's ripe grapefruit and citrus-zest notes.
2006 The Brander Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($15)
Fred Brander has been specializing in Sauvignon Blanc for three decades, making him one of the pioneering winemakers in California's Santa Ynez Valley. Brander makes several terrific higher-end Sauvignon Blanc cuvées, but this spicy basic bottling—to which he adds a portion of Pinot Blanc and Riesling for complexity—gives a fine idea of his style.
2006 Estancia Pinnacles Ranches Sauvignon Blanc ($12)
Estate fruit from Estancia's vineyards in Monterey County sustains this melony Sauvignon Blanc, a perennial white wine value.
2005 Praxis Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc ($12)
Bill Arbios, owner of the Cabernet producer Arbios Cellars, started Praxis in order to offer affordable wines like this herbal, fresh Sauvignon Blanc.
2006 Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc ($14)
Winemaker Rick Sayre ferments a small percentage of this firm Sauvignon Blanc in oak barrels. This helps add a little bit of lushness to the crisp texture and tart fruit.
2006 Morgan Sauvignon Blanc ($15)
This Monterey-area producer is best known for its complex Pinot Noirs (as well as a fine unoaked Chardonnay, called Metallico—a perennial good deal, but at $22 a little too pricey for this column). Morgan's lively Sauvignon Blanc deserves more attention, though. A small percentage of Sémillon in the blend helps boost its richness; the rest is largely Sauvignon Musqué, an aromatic clone of the traditional Sauvignon Blanc grape.