Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Pale yellow-gold color; white peach, grapefruit, citrus on the nose; white peach, citrus on the palate.

Clean expression of Napa sauv blanc; plays well in the mouth with rich feel for a sauv blanc. Dry (5.4 g/L), excellent sauv blanc acidity (3.37 pH). Plenty of citrus elements support the stone fruit initial attack; 85% of press fermented in stainless steel to capture the fruit; 15% barrel fermented to add weight and texture. Nicely lingering finish.

Sterling Vineyards began when British international newspaper owner Peter Newton broadened business interests of his company by purchasing land near Calistoga in Napa Valley in 1964 and established the vineyards. In quick succession, he purchased more land and, in addition to cabernet sauvignon, planted merlot (then virtually unknown in Napa), chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc.

Bottling began in 1969, including California’s first vintage-dated merlot. In 1971, Martin Waterfield—an officer in Newton’s company—designed a Mediterranean-style, white stucco winery complex inspired by structures on the Greek island of Mykonos, where Newton once lived. Today, the complex is one of the most-visited in Napa.

The Newton family sold the winery and vineyards to Coca Cola in 1977. In 1982, Coke sold the operation to Joseph E. Seagram and Sons when Coke’s wine adventure fizzled. Sterling quickly became the crown jewel of Seagram’s wine efforts. Between 1982 and 2000, Sterling’s yearly sales jumped from less than 60,000 cases to 400,000. Even better, wine quality steadily improved.

In 2001, Diageo—a United Kingdom drinks conglomerate—purchased Seagram and mixed Sterling into its existing wine business. In 2015, Diageo sold most of its wine business to Treasury Wine Estates, an Australian-based global winemaking and distribution operation that traces its roots to Penfolds Wine and Foster’s Group beer brewers (Treasury had spun off its beer business four years before the Diageo wine acquisition).

Treasury is a major international player in the wine world, making wine in 12 countries, selling more than 35 million cases of wine a year, and generating sales of more than $2 billion. Labels you may recognize beyond Sterling include Stag’s Leap, Beaulieu Vineyard, Beringer, Chateau St. Jean, Greg Norman Estates, Lindemans, Wolf Blass, and their flagship—Penfolds. That represents lots of changes and marketing directions for Sterling. Treasury tends to focus on commodity wines sold in supermarkets and mass-market liquor-beer-wine stores, which is where Sterling largely resides today.

Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2015 is a clean, well-made commodity sauv blanc with superb acidity. It is in the mid-range of dry, which will please those who are comforted by a suggestion of sweetness but still want to sip in the dry sector; ripe fruits contribute to this flavor profile. Dependable and easily found. $15-18

Sterling Vineyards website

Sterling Vineyards winery and vineyard

Sterling Vineyards vineyards

Entrance to Sterling Vineyards