Cabernet has always drawn people to the Napa Valley. Dennis and Judy Groth were no exception. They visited the area in the 1960s at the beginnings of the Napa Valley and by 1985 had decided to move there and make it their home. These were the early days and Dennis was part of the founding of the Oakville Winegrowers that formed in 1993.
They raised their children here and have become a generational business. Their daughter Suzanne now runs the business.
Groth is in the Oakville AVA on the valley floor in Napa. It is family owned and sustainably farmed. The Groth Estate vineyard in Oakville is 121-acres planted in the early 1970s by Justin Meyer. Oakville has great temps day and night, not too hot, not too cold, as well as a variety of soils.
In 1994 they replanted the eastern section of their Estate Vineyard. Previously this had all been Cab. They realized that the clay soils here would be great for Bordeaux whites and replanted these blocks to Sauvignon Blanc and more recently Semillon.
Sustainability is an important issue for me, so before we even get to the wine, let’s talk about their sustainability program.
Certified Napa Green
What does that mean? Groth received their Napa Green certification in 2014 as well as their Fish Friendly Farming Certification. These certifications are set up to prevent erosion and sediment runoff, which is really important for the “fish friendly” aspect. The plans work to reduce and finally eliminate harmful inputs and restore riparian habitats.
They also work to conserve water, which we all know is very important especially in Napa with the recent fires. Methods for water conservation include efficient irrigation and frost protection. This is a program that continues to evolve and will become stricter in the upcoming years.
Other sustainable practices at Groth
They are in the process of a replant program that began in 2018. This process will change the row orientation allowing breezes to flow through the vineyard from San Pablo Bay, decreasing the need for fungicides.
Their use of cover crops means the soil holds water and nutrients so that they don’t have to irrigate as often or as much. Pests are kept down by owl, raptors, and bluebirds who are attracted and kept by the boxes and perches throughout the vineyard. They also have an insectary for beneficial insects which adds to the healthy biodiversity of the property.
A great neighborhood that is more than just Cabernet
This of course is where Robert Mondavi first planted To Kalon and their neighbors at Groth include Opus One, Plumpjack & Silver Oak, so Groth is in good company.
This is Cabernet country and the Groth’s came here to make Cab, but like Bordeaux, they can and do grow more than Cabernet here!
Groth 2019 Estate White
We received a bottle of the first Estate white released by Groth as a sample. This is a blend of 79% Sauvignon Blanc and 21% Semillon.
Before I give you all the geeky wine details, I want to share with you Michael’s first comment on tasting this wine.
“I like it and I would buy more.”
That’s quite an accolade after his first sip (he tends to be a harsh critic). Okay, now to the details.
- 79% Sav Blanc, 21% Semillon
- Whole cluster pressed
- Fermented in a variety of vessels
- Second fill Acacia barrels
- Neutral French Oak
- Stainless Steel tanks
- A concrete egg
- 3 months sur lie aging and 3 months blended aging
- 5% abv
- 365 cases produced
- $50 SRP
The Groth Estate White Story
There is so much to this wine’s story. I was able to sit in on a Zoom Tasting that Suzanne and Groth winemaker Cameron Parry did recently with Karen MacNeil and the two gave us some details on how this wine came about.
Groth has been making a Napa Sauvignon Blanc since the mid-90s. It’s a blend of grapes from throughout the Napa Valley. They noticed that of the lots of Sauvignon Blanc that came in, the lots from their own estate had great depth and quality and so they decided to showcase this fruit from the Estate.
The Estate White is their first new wine in over 40 years and 2019 is its Inaugural Vintage!
Since they were not blending grapes from multiple sites and soils, they needed new ways to build complexity in the wine. This is where the addition of a concrete egg to their fermenting method came in. They fermented and aged these wines in a variety of vessels, stainless steel tanks, neutral oak, second use acacia as well as concrete eggs.
Word has it they even did a little bit with extended skin contact, but they are not revealing the details of that secret ingredient.
The vintage & the vineyard
The grapes for this blend are all grown on the Groth Oakville Estate that sits East of St. Helena Hwy on the northside of Oakville Cross Road. The 2019 season was mostly cool until an August heatwave and then pendulum swings of temperatures through harvest, which began with the Savignon Blanc on September 3rd.
The soils and the blocks
This wine tells the story of the Estate Vineyard. With 121 acres in the middle of Oakville, they have a variety of soils. The blocks for this blend are far from their reserve block for their Cabernet Sauvignon. This side of the vineyard has more black clay for better vigor which is good for white wines.
There are just 3 blocks of Sauvignon Blanc on the Estate and they chose the richest for this wine. In addition, there is a Semillon block. This 11-acre block is the largest planting of Semillon in Oakville. They pick these grapes together, almost like a field blend, and crush and ferment them mostly together.
Interesting grape fact: Semillon is a large viscous grape and on its own in a pressing tends to clog the press. By co-pressing with the Sauvignon Blanc, they lessen this issue although they still do one dedicated Semillon press with press aids.
This blend is more than just Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, the two blend to create something that goes beyond the individual varieties.
Our tasting notes on the Groth 2019 Estate White
The wine pours a pale lemon and the nose begins dusty with green notes of grass (not cut lawn, but more like a long feather grass) and green apple and white peach. There is bright but round citrus notes like Meyer lemon, and something exotic like starfruit. Ginger and a hint of pear round out the nose.
On the palate, this is dry with a round full body. In my mouth, I get nectarine, lime, and Meyer lemon with a long pleasant finish.
Pairing the Groth 2019 Estate White
Groth suggested pairing with a grilled peach and arugula salad and that sounded too delicious not to try! But I also wanted to explore some other pairings, so we also did steamed mussels and pasta with homemade pesto.
This pasta played just a little outside the lines, with Italian and Thai basil, almonds, and pine nuts in addition to parmesan, olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. We roasted lemon slices for garnish.
All the pairings went well, but they were right, the grilled peaches were the kicker. Something in the richness of the grilled fruit was magical with the wine.
We luxuriated over this as afternoon turned to evening, and did a simple sweet finish of lemon curd on butter waffle cookies. Those Meyer lemon notes in the wine and the tartness of the curd made for a perfect bite.
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.