Many years ago, the great winemaker Robert Mondavi started making one of his Sauvignon Blancs in wood…a wine he decided to call Fumé Blanc. It was a creative naming moment (a little Pouilly-Fumé, a little Sauvignon Blanc)—and it was a name subsequently used by hundreds of California winemakers to name their Sauvignon Blancs with some wood treatment. To me, even more important, is the source Mondavi developed for Sauvignon Blanc grapes—a vineyard called To Kalon, on the Stags’ Leap side of Napa Valley. Today—Mondavi long gone—the winery with his name continues to use the same sourcing and the same barrel treatment. I am glad! I have always liked the To Kalon Fumé Blanc. This one is just off-light straw. Big SB nose, definitely on the sweaty side. Some lime leaf character as well, plus hints of white-Bordeaux-like lanolin. Medium-rich mouthfeel, the feel important wine is supposed to have. Blessedly, it’s also elegant. Bright, lemony acidity, with SB flavors coursing through. Falls just short of heat on the finish…but a little residual sugar does land as the wine warms.
Because of the California exuberance, it is not the world’s most flexible wine for food. But anything reasonable that’s a little sweet—chicken salad with apples, grapes, and walnuts, for example—will go very well.