Off the vine: Dust is king in Napa

August 28, 2013 

In the Rutherford Viticultural District of Napa Valley, Calif., -- dust is king and recently I wrote about red wines or in other words -- red dust, but there is also white dust in Rutherford as a reader commented to me.

Remember that by the term "dust," we are referring to terroir -- which technically speaking means soil. However, to winemakers terroir is an all-encompassing term which means much more than just soil, it also includes climate.

It is true that there is a strict definition of terroir -- it is a factor that gives grapes certain characteristics due to the soil and other geographic factors from where the grapes were grown. If you have ever taken a winery tour, you will most likely recall the guide describing the soil with terms such as chalky, claylike, gravelly or volcanic.

Driving north on Highway 29 into the heart of Napa Valley, the two-lane highway is the home to common household names for the true wine fanatic. Once you reach Rutherford, if you turn right onto Rutherford Road, you can't help but see the driveway of Round Pond Winery on your left. The wineries and vineyards that surround Round Pond include Beaulieu Vineyards, Caymus, Cakebread and Frog's Leap to name a few.

While Round Pond makes a number of different Cabernet Sauvignon wines, they also make a Sauvignon Blanc that is produced using grapes that are entirely grown in Rutherford. What is unique about this is that is you compare the price of grapes grown in Rutherford for 2012 -- Cabernet Sauvignon sold for $5,100 per ton compared to $1,880

for Sauvignon Blanc so it doesn't take a genius to figure out what varietal is more profitable for a winery or a grower.

The 2012 Round Pond Sauvignon Blanc is very crisp and clean and it is just as delightful to drink on a hot Florida afternoon as it is to pair with grilled swordfish topped with a lemon butter sauce. This Sauvignon Blanc starts with the aroma of fresh, white peaches, followed by the flavors of lemon grass and a hint of honeydew.

In addition to wine, Round Pond estate also produces a wide variety of gourmet olive oils and red wine vinegars that are available at the winery to sample. If you really enjoy different olive oils, try visiting the winery in November when they are harvesting the olives.

Next time you visit Napa Valley, it is worth tasting different Sauvignon Blanc wines from the Rutherford appellation to see how good your palate is at picking out some common characteristics of that region.

As I have stated on a number of occasions, grape growers are farmers and the "fruits" of their labors directly correlates to the quality of the land and growing conditions which, in Rutherford, is "dust" that provides some very unique characteristics that make these wines a joy to share with friends and family.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at

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