Yesterday being the monthly non-Hallmark holiday known as Wine Blogging Wednesday, my original plan was to hop a train to the city and cruise the German Riesling tasting while shuffling an iPod and tasting the various vinous delights. Alas, I couldn’t find my son’s iPod to borrow; plus, it would be kinda rude to keep shouting “HOW MUCH RESIDUAL SUGAR IS IN THIS?” over the din of the room and dull throb of hiphop.

Surely I jest. Everyone knows German Rieslings are better than ever and offer a range of sweetness. On the other hand, I think “Halbtrocken” is a term better suited for a James Bond villain than a category of wine. Surely I digress.

Regretfully, I never made the trip to the city (went wine shopping instead). And, worse, I failed to pursue Katie’s original WBW mission over at http://gonzogastro.wordpress.com/, which was to gauge the impact that listening to music had on tasting wine. However, I did have a pretty heavy tasting experience last night, so I am giving WBW #58 a whirl anyway.

Let us begin, together, by humming/mumbling or outright singing “She’s come undone… dat-un-dat-un-dato-dato-dato-ay… dat-un-dat-un-dato-dato-dato-ay….” Now, guess who! OK, that is the Guess Who. But what I am really asking is guess who is making Sauvignon Blanc now…. It is none other than Dry Creek Vineyard, the longtime keeper of the Fumé Blanc flame, whose just-released 2008 is labeled simply Sauvignon Blanc, representing a huge shift in thinking from this venerable Sonoma producer.

First a sip of backstory. The term Fumé Blanc was originally coined by Robert Mondavi back in 1968, as a means of drawing attention to the dry crisp Sauvignon Blancs being made by his and other wineries in California. RM’s thinking then was simple: add a degree of familiarity and semi-French flair to an underappreciated wine genre by tying it semi-semantically to its better-known French version, Pouilly-Fumé. Ironically, you can read all about the modern legacy of Fumé Blanc at http://whatisfume.com, a site launched last year by Dry Creek Vineyard (and now pretty moot).

Why go Sauvy after decades of Fumé? As Kim Stare Wallace—winery VP and scion of David Stare, who planted the first SB vines in Dry Creek Valley—explained in a press release accompanying the sample I tried, the winery was following through due-diligence market research. “We conducted a survey 18 months ago in which we inquired with several different audiences about whether or not we should change the name,” according to Stare Wallace. “The results came back quite clearly – a name change was needed.” And so Dry Creek Vineyard has now bid adieu to Fumé.

This is one gutsy move. I would not argue that many a wine drinker still is confused as to what precisely “Fumé Blanc” means/meant. But to see one of its flag-waving progenitors abandon ship {pun intended—DCV is well-known for its nautically themed labels}, well, that’s big. There is no reason to doubt the Stare family’s commitment to the new varietal name as well as their genuine excitement, which is also reflected in a more elegant, less green-dominant label (with smaller sailboat).

I, too, approached the wine with excitement.

That said, I have to give the wine a “D” for different. Not “B” for bad, mind you. But my taste memory—based on had more vintages of DCV FB than I can count on three hands—was not what I found in the ’08. Simply put, there was less of what I always found more of in DCV: that unapologetic combination of citrus zest and grassy underpinnings. What I got in the 2008 nose, which carried into the palate, was a sort of soapiness. I kept trying to interpret it as melon or fig, but I just couldn’t, because it just wasn’t. Yes, there was some fruit, and buoying tang, but the wine lacked the overall verve and kept tossing me this odd, slightly artificial curveball. Drinkable? Absolutely. My wife and I both drank the wine, with similar impressions: she’s come undone….

I expect more from $16 California Sauvignon Blanc. If I needed to buy a bottle of Sauv Blanc today, I’d plump for Ferrari-Carano or Quivira at that price point; or Kenwood or Chateau Bonnet (Bordeaux) for a notch less; or just about any fresh Chilean if I needed enough leftover $$ to put toward toward a latte). I might even chip in an extra buck or two for Honig or St. Supery from Napa Valley, or a retailer-suggested Sauvignon from the Loire Valley. {Note: I’m over New Zealand for the time being; Marlborough SBs started tasting too narrowly grapefruity.}

When going back to the wine repeatedly, I kept worrying that my expectations were getting into the mix. Was I so thrown off by the new identity that I could not do the 2008—tasted non-blind—justice? I doubt that. In fact, the wine might have fared even worse in my mind had I not been having it with dinner. Now, looking ahead I am left wondering about DCV SB’s future. The experience of taste-testing the new vintage and feeling let down has conjured up some parallels in my mind… Is this the new “New Coke”? The new Mustang? Or maybe it’s more like the first date with an old flame you thought you knew so well.. Returning to the musical theme, is the 2008 more like a disappointing album from favorite artist… kind of like Elton John following “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road” with “Caribou” {apologies for the ’70s trip, folks}.

Back to the present, I admire the pluck Dry Creek Vineyard is demonstrating here, changing direction after decades. And, to repeat, the ’08 Sauvignon Blanc is a sound, useful wine {prediction: it will garner an average score of 88 points from numbers-wielders}. But it’s enough to make me cry tears of a clown here. I miss the sock-in-the-face sass of the DCV FB! Rest assured I still believe in the winery. DCV Chenin Blanc is a masterpiece of a summer-sipping hall-of-famer—able to seduce wine-vets and novices alike, for under $10. And DCV Zinfandels outclass most other Zins in both balance and value at varying price points. However, I’m afraid I’m going to have to file this bottling away, right alongside a CD featuring Christopher Cross singing “Sailing.”

{Note: if any overtly annoying melody got stuck in your cranium via this post, all you need to do is take a deep breath and softly, “It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all….”}

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ADDENDUM / UPDATE / REMIX

Ahem. Ladies, gentlemen and wine lovers, I received a phone message today from Kim Stare Wallace, saying we needed to talk… I’m thinking to myself: she’s probably going to tell me that as a result of my post, DCV is planning to bring back its Fumé Blanc. Ha!

Well, when I called back I learned she was saying the next best thing: Dry Creek Vineyard has actually NOT discontinued its Sonoma-appellation FB. This fact, buried amid SauvBlanc this and SauvBlanc that quotes on page two of the press release, apparently escaped my notice. We went back and forth with apologies for misleading vs. misreading; bottom line, it’s all good. YOu can have your DCV Sauvignon and your Fumé too.

We also chatted about the presence of the aromas I was pegging as “soapish”, and we agreed it was the 6% of the Musque clone in the new SB. Perhaps Kim will leave a comment on this later. Until then, stay well and drink well.