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2001 Westerly "Estate" Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley California

It's unfortunate how sometimes the best way to describe something you like is a word or phrase that doesn't normally make people think good thoughts. Such is the unfortunate case for Sauvignon Blanc which, at times, manages to smell just a little like cat piss.

Yes. I know. Who would drink a wine that reeks of a vengeful or incontinent feline?

I've definitely experienced a few wines (mostly old Sancerres or Pouilly Fumes) in which this aroma was so overpowering I could not bring myself to drink them. However in many wines it is a mere background aroma, one that blends in with stronger scents of fruit, flowers, and all things pleasing. It is there, however, and in writing descriptions of the way such wines smell, I would be remiss to not mention it. Such is the case with this little wine from Westerly Vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Owned by Neil and Francine Afromsky, Westerly Vineyards is a 200-acre ranch which supplies grapes to producers like Babcock, Longoria, Fiddlehead, Ojai and Foxen, as well as making small quantities under its own name. Winemaker Seth Kunin produces both a Viognier and a Sauvignon Blanc from their estate fruit and in recent years, from other vineyards in the area.

Tasting Notes:
This is an unusually colored wine, far more golden than you would expect from a Sauvignon Blanc, with a refreshing, aromatic nose of green apple, citrus zest, and wet slate, in addition to the common Sav Blanc aroma referenced above. In the mouth it is far more restrained than its nose would lead you to believe, its flavors predominantly dry nuts, unripe pears, and a slight heated wash of alcohol on the finish. The wine has nice acid level that makes it refreshing to drink, and combined with the more earthy flavors, makes this more of a European style wine than an American or New Zealand.

Food Pairing:
This is a good fish wine that will cut through a light cream or butter sauce like that of this red snapper with lemon-marjoram butter.

Overall Score: 7.5/8

How Much?: $20

This wine is available for sale through various Internet merchants. Try Wine Searcher.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.