Tenor Sauvignon Blanc
Wildly different, exceptionally complex
With the Tenor Sauvignon Blanc, we set out to create a wildly different white wine... something that would be a little out there, very intriguing, but still remarkably approachable. To accomplish this, we didn’t necessarily do anything that hasn’t been done before, but we did push many of our processes and techniques to an extreme. It’s not unusual to create a 100% sauvignon blanc, or to barrel ferment it, or to do it in high percentages of new oak, or even to macerate the grapes. But to do all of those things, and to let the maceration continue for 24-48 hours (much longer than traditionally done) results in a truly unique wine that displays the intensity and depth of character Tenor has become known for. It also enables us to deliver a sauvignon blanc that is able to age for 6-8-10 years and still maintain it’s structure and freshness.
On release this wine is pure exuberance: intense spice, floral aromatics, big yellow fruit—some pineapple and guava, but less tropical than you might expect. It presents more delicately in cooler years, more intensely in warmer years. As the wine ages, you can enjoy the evolution of this varietal in a very pure and concentrated form. It shows progression with age, but remains remarkably complex after 4 and 6 years (and likely longer), with beautifully intact fruit due to the maceration and intense concentration that results. Tenor Sauvignon Blanc is anything but simple but still easy to enjoy, even if it’s unlike anything else you’ve had.
While we always strive for consistency in our vintages, there is more year-over-year variation in our sauv blanc than you’ll see in our reds, and that’s by design. This is a wine that wants to show you the unique conditions it grew in and display the ever-evolving interactions between wine and wood. The biggest driver is the maceration, which delivers far greater phenolic intensity, acidity and structure, which we then endeavor to balance out through the rest of the process. This results in significant year over year variations in our process to yield a wine that is true to the Tenor style: immensely perfumed, extravagant, exotic, but more mature than you might expect.
Stillwater Creek VineyardsOur Sauvignon Blanc comes from Stillwater Creek, on the Royal Slope of the Frenchman Hills. The proprietors bring over 30 years of grape growing experience in both California and Washington. Sauvignon Blanc can be a tricky grape, but their expertise and growing conditions produce amazing fruit for us.
Sorting and SelectionsThe sauvignon blanc lots are picked primarily at first light or at night when temps are lower. The grapes are hand sorted at the vineyard and then shipped to the winery in refrigerated trucks. Fruit arrives at the winery, still cold, around 8:30 a.m, where it is sorted again and immediately de-stemmed to ensure only pristine berries are going into the tanks.
Tanking & Pressing
We begin the Sauvignon Blanc in stainless steel tanks. We work hard to get them into the tank within a couple hours of arrival and then we keep them cold. One of the things that makes Tenor Sauvignon Blanc unusual is that the grapes are macerated—but not fermented—in the tank. This maceration process will continue for 24-48 hours, with twice-daily pump-overs until we determine that we have the extraction and balance we’re looking for. The free run juice is separated and pumped away, and the pumice that remains is pressed to extract the remaining juice. The two parts are then fermented separately.
Barrelling & Fermenting
After pressing, the pressed juice is allowed to settle out overnight before being immediately barreled into French oak. This gives us even more control in the blending process and enables us to add additional layers of complexity. Tenor Sauvignon Blanc is 100% barrel fermented. Once in barrel, the wine is allowed to start with native yeasts and is stopped prior to malolactic fermentation, after which we continue to stir it, with a bi-weekly batonnage (stirring), for the first 1-3 months. The exact nuances of timing and technique vary year over year, but the goal is always to balance the intense freshness and structure that the maceration adds, with the richness and texture of the batonnage and that too is different year to year, lot to lot.
BlendingWe carefully evaluate the aromatic profile of each barrel and then the palate presentation to create the specific profile we’re looking for in that vintage. Because we macerate and because we don’t use the exact same barrels every year, the blending process for the sauvignon blanc is continually evolving.
The wine is bottled in our state of the art facility in Walla Walla, WA