Wine Growing Areas
Sauvignon Blanc in California
Here is an overview of principal California American Viticultural Areas, (AVAs), the U.S. equivalent of appellations, associated with Sauvignon Blanc. For a deep dive into specific regions, please visit our Regional Guides
California Sauvignon Blanc Acreage by County (2020)
|COUNTY||2020 TOTAL GRAPE ACRES
(bearing and non-bearing)
|2020 TOTAL GRAPE HECTARES
(bearing and non-bearing)
|San Luis Obispo||805||326|
Southern-mid and mid valley
Sauvignon Blanc is important to Napa Valley, and about 18% of the state total comes from there. Although planted throughout Napa Valley, Sauvignon Blanc fares best in the southern-mid and mid-valley portions (Yountville, Rutherford, Oakville, and Saint Helena). In addition to signature green/herbaceous, grassy notes and a vibrant acidity, Napa Valley examples are often typified by flavors of white peach, grapefruit, and honeydew melon.
Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley
Acreage planted to Sauvignon Blanc in Sonoma County is (coincidentally) almost identical to that of Napa. While widely grown, the best examples of Sauvignon Blanc seem to emanate from the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys. Indeed, Dry Creek is a state-wide benchmark whose “regionally classic” markers of green melon, just-ripe pineapple and green or yellow apple are augmented by varietally-classic greener notes and the omnipresent pink grapefruit character of Sonoma County fruit.
- Russian River Valley: Although there is (sadly) less and less of it to be found, as Sauvignon Blanc loses ground to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, these examples become fuller and richer as you move from the center of the Valley to the east (closer to Healdsburg). Expressions from the eastern side of Russian River Valley tend to be riper and quite focused. Worth the search!
- Alexander Valley: Coming off the gravelly loam soils in the central and southern sections of the AVA, Sauvignon Blanc here is often oak-aged and richer.
- Dry Creek Valley: Replete with its well-draining, mineral-rich sedimentary soils, Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc, the AVA’s most planted white grape, may not be as renowned as Zinfandel -- but it should be. In cooler pockets of Dry Creek Valley, the grape will show more balance, and less muscular herbal tones. Bright tropical notes, including passion fruit and starfruit, often typify these wines.
Known as fishing country as well as for its fine wines, Lake County, just north of Napa Valley, is among California’s fastest growing premium grape regions. The county’s Sauvignon Blancs are known for their fruit-forward nature, and bolder citrus flavors. Most of Lake County’s 2,000-plus acres of Sauvignon Blanc plantings are concentrated in the Big Valley area about Kelseyville.
- Lake County: Sauvignon Blancs from Lake County’s highest elevations, with their prolonged UV exposure, experience higher flavor and sugar development. These Sauvignon Blancs are redolent of grass and grapefruit, with hints of stone fruit and apples.
Monterey County (ARROYO SECO)
Close to San Francisco, Monterey County is not the first place one thinks of for Sauvignon Blanc, but it is prominent. In the early 1970s, Doug Meador planted Sauvignon Blanc at Ventana Vineyard in the Arroyo Seco AVA and started the trend. Indeed, it is Doug’s Sauvignon Musqué clone, which he pulled from UC Davis as a grape called Savagnin Musqué, that became the source for Larry Hyde, who in turn re-registered it with UC Davis. For a deeper dive into Savagnin Musqué, read Wine Industry Advisor’s Mysterious Musqué Clone– Once Near Extinction– Finds its Revival. Spoiler Alert: There is more Sauvignon Musqué planted in Monterey County than in any other region of California; at 102 acres/41 hectares, Monterey has slightly more than Sonoma.
- Monterey: Aromas of snap peas and green chilis are augmented by notes of melon. Structurally lush and round, with crisp acidity.
- Arroyo Seco: In addition to the Musqué selection showing up, Sauvignon Blancs from this AVA display grassy notes, with nuances of licorice, fig and peach, a light hay/alfalfa finish, and a gravelly minerality.
With just about 800 acres planted across the totality of the county, Sauvignon Blanc is dwarfed by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but it punches above its hectare-weight in terms of reputation.
- Santa Barbara: Stylistically, Santa Barbara County Sauvignon Blancs share the bold tropical notes of their New Zealand cousins, but generally without their more extreme green notes. And like their classic French counterparts, the best exhibit a firm mineral backbone. Regardless of interpretation, they are zippy and refreshing.
- Happy Canyon: Being further inland, and with its marine soils and high diurnal variations, here properly farmed Sauvignon Blanc is ripe and ample in tropical fruit, yet balanced with fresh natural acidity and a mineral edge.
In Lodi, acreage planted to Sauvignon Blanc has been steadily increasing, as demand for the grape from commercial wineries reflects a steady upward trend. According to the most recent California Department of Food and Agriculture Grape Acreage Report, as of 2018 there are 1,892 acres/803 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc (including its clonal variant Sauvignon Musqué) planted in Lodi. Worth noting is that Lodi's Jahant AVA is planted entirely to Sauvignon Musqué.
While typically less distinctive, it is nonetheless important to recognize the volume of fruit these two inland regions grow. Sacramento County’s bearing acreage of Sauvignon Blanc in 2019 was 1,096 acres/442.5 hectares, and San Joaquin’s was 1,502 acres/ 648.30 hectares.
Sauvignon Blanc Around the World
As the world’s second most widely planted white vinifera grape, it might be easier to list where Sauvignon Blanc is not found! Below is a list of principal areas associated with premium Sauvignon Blanc. For further information on these areas, click on the below region:
- France: Loire (Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé, Quincy, Touraine); Bordeaux (Graves, Pessac-Leognan, Entre-Deux-Mers, Sauternes); Southwest France (Bergerac); Roussillon; Burgundy (Saint Bris)
- Italy: Northeast (Alto Adige, Trentino, Friuli-Venezia Giulia)
- Spain: Castilla-La Mancha; Castilla-León (Rueda)
- Other European countries: E. Europe (Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia. Moldova, etc.)
- Australia: Western Australia (Margaret River); South Australia (Adelaide Hills, Coonawarra, Clare Valley); New South Wales (Hunter Valley); Tasmania
- New Zealand: South Island (Marlborough); North Island (Hawkes Bay)
- South Africa: Elgin, Mossel Bay, Stellenbosch, Constantia
- The Americas
- Argentina: Mendoza
- Chile: Aconcagua (CasaBlanca, San Antonio); Central Valley (Curicó, Maipo, Maule)
- Mexico: Mexican Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe
- Canada: British Columbia
- USA (beyond California): Oregon, Washington, and Texas
- Argentina: Mendoza