Hail the 32nd vintage(!) of Brander Sauvignon Blanc. Made from fruit grown in the Los Olivos area, the 2008, like all the vintages before it, is a summer classic. Crisp and minerally with a touch of grapefruit rind and grass in the perfume, this is a California Sauvignon Blanc that's closer to Sancerre than some of the overly oaked fruit bombs around. And at under $15 -- sometimes well under, it's a basic for warm-weather drinking.
Owner and winemaker C. Frederic Brander produces a couple of other more expensive Sauvignon Blanc cuvees, such as the more intense "Cuvée Nicolas" aged sur lie in barrels, half of them new French oak, which imparts a pronounced flavor. Funny thing, though, I much prefer the regular bottling for its pure fruit flavors.
For those of you headed up to the Santa Ynez Valley sometime this summer, the Brander tasting room is open seven days a week, when you can taste the full line of this valley pioneer's wines.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Region: Santa Ynez Valley, Calif.
Price: Under $15
Style: Crisp and minerally
What it goes with: Raw bar items, steamed shellfish, Dungeness crab, Asian food
Where to find it: Widely available at wine shops and at supermarkets, including Bristol Farms and Whole Foods Markets