When is a grape variety not a grape variety? Philosophers might debate this question at length, but U.S. regulators harbor no such doubt: No matter how distinctive and true-breeding the fruit, it's not a true varietal grape unless the Federal Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) recognizes it as such.
So, while Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier and Pineau d'Aunis are all recognized varieties that may legally be named on a wine label, and so are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Musqué is not.
That's surprising in a way, if a tasting of this rarity from Sonoma County's Dry Creek Vineyard is any guide: It produces a delicious wine that's truly distinctive with a ripe, aromatic peach and mango character.
Dry Creek produces one of the very few California wines that use Musqué as if it were a varietal grape, selecting it to the exclusion of more traditional Sauvignon Blanc fruit in its Taylor's Vineyard Musqué.
The label language, however, has to jump through a few hoops to gain regulatory approval: On the front it's billed as "Taylor's Vineyard Musqué," with "Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc" in smaller print below. The back label uses an alternate route to reach the same destination, marshaling parentheses to declare the wine "Taylor's Vineyard (Sauvignon) Musqué."
"Call it what you will," instructs the winery Website
. "Sauvignon Musqué is best described as a newly recognized selection, isolated from Sauvignon Blanc vines, though some would refer to it as a separate clone altogether."
Jancis Robinson, wearing her grape expert's hat, declares Sauvignon Musqué (and the similarly aromatic and uncommon Chardonnay Musqué) mutations of the parent grapes, adding that they are "particularly aromatic and may add to the variety's own characteristics a grapey, heady scent."
I'll buy that. The Dry Creek, which is one of the California Wine Club Connoisseurs' Series selections this month, is surely the most aromatic Sauvignon Blanc I've tasted, offering luscious mangoes and peaches in place of the variety's more customary citrus, grass or chile peppers. I like it.
N.B.: California Wine Club and Connoisseurs' Series are long-time friends and advertising partners, but the following tasting report and the opinions it contains are entirely my own. If you're interested in the club, call them at +1-800-777-4443 ... and tell them I sent you.
<table border="0" align="right" width="170"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/musque.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Dry Creek Vineyard 2004 Dry Creek Valley Taylor's Vineyard Musqué Sauvignon Blanc
($30 retail, $27 in half- and full-case lots from Connoisseurs' Series
Brilliant pale gold. Attractive peach aromas loft over subtle mixed citrus and a distant minty note. Juicy peaches and musky cantaloupe meld on the palate, fresh and bright with snappy, food-friendly acidity. Textured full body and a back note of stony minerality become more evident as the wine warms in the glass, adding intriguing notes of complexity. Wonderful Sauvignon Blanc, a shame that only 350 cases were made. Fine with pork, poultry and fish, but its intensity calls for bolder fare. It was find with a dish adapted from Scott Conant's New Italian Cooking, sear-roasted chicken thighs marinated with juniper berries, fresh thyme and garlic. Limited production, 243 cases made. Winery fact sheet: http://www.drycreekvineyard.com/news/news_03Musque.html
(Feb. 17, 2007)
<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
As noted, this wine is available with membership in Connoisseurs' Series, the high-end division of my old friends at The California Wine Club. Call 1-800-777-4443 for more information or to join the club, or visit
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