2012 Dragonette "Grassini Vineyard" Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara Sauvignon Blanc
Bright yellow. Heady aromas of poached pear, honey, jasmine and iodine, along with a smoky, leesy overtone. Offers pliant orchard and ripe citrus fruit flavors and a touch of sweet butter, complemented by anise and honeysuckle. Smooth and expansive on the clinging finish, showing very good intensity and bright stony cut. Now settled into a spacious facility on the northern outskirts of Buellton, John and Steve Dragonette and Brandon Sparks-Gillis have plenty of room to spread out and work more efficiently and quickly than when they were based in Lompoc, where the barrels were stacked to the roof, according to Sparks-Gillis, who told me that they're trying to "strip away as much artifice as possible" from their wines and are taking a highly flexible approach to fermentation times, stem inclusion and new oak while "trying to make each wine distinct from the others. Otherwise, why not just make single-varietal bottlings and be done with it?" Sparks-Gillis asked rhetorically.
These days, when we see Santa Barbara on a label we think Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. But the Happy Canyon AVA, a little warmer than its neighbors thanks to a range of mountains that block the coldest sea breezes, is a place where Bordeaux varietals thrive. Grassini is a high-density, low-yielding (for Sauvignon Blanc) vineyard. The folks at Dragonette purchase the grapes on a per-acre basis, instead of per-ton, and harvest them in multiple passes, by hand. Add aging in 67% neutral French oak barrels and puncheons, 11 months aging on the lees with occasional stirring, and you can see why this is a $34.99 Sauv Blanc--and worth it. The 2011 was scored 92 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, Tanzer's International Wine Cellar and Connoisseur's Guide to California Wine.