Bigger Than Your Head: Sublime Sauvignon Blancs

Bigger Than Your Head, August 9, 2023

If any two people in the California wine industry could be called a power couple, that epithet could go to Bibiana Gonzalez Rave and her husband Jeff Pisoni. Bibiana — let’s use first names — is owner and winemaker of Cattleya Wines, a producer of chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Sonoma County. Jeff, whose family has a long history in Santa Lucia Highlands, produces chardonnay and Pinot Noir under the Lucia label. Each has a second label for more moderately priced wines, Alma de Cattleya for Bibiana and Lucy for Jeff. Together, under their married name — Bibiana and Jeff Pisoni — they collaborate on Shared Notes, a visionary project devoted to making Sauvignon Blanc wines modeled after the ideals of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. (They also collaborate on the Shared Notes brand of coffee imported from Columbia, Bibiana’s home country.) 

Today, I look at the two sauvignon blancs from 2022, the most recent releases. 


The Shared Notes Les Leçons des maitres 2022, Russian River Valley, a blend of 80 percent sauvignon blanc and 20 percent semillon (the Bordeaux model), aged eight months on the lees in 100 percent new French oak barrels. The name means “the lessons of the masters.” The color is very pale straw-goes; aromas of pears and lemongrass, candied kinder and jasmine gradually unfurl hints of hay and heather, lime peel and a tantalizing whiff of rose petals; these elements segue seamlessly to the palate, where tart, crisp acidity plows a furrow and provides energy and flow through a lovely powdery, talc-like texture; a few moments int he glass add notes of grapefruit and (just barely) tangerine, freshly sliced apple and a leafy-fig quality; that strain of grapefruit brings some austerity to the finish, complementing the rising tide of limestone minerality. 13.27 percent alcohol. 180 cases produced. Drink now through 2027 to ’29. Excellent. About $85. 


Following the model of the eastern reaches where the Loire River makes a great curve to the west, through Sancerre and Pouilly-Fuisse, the 100 percent varietal Shared Notes Les pierres que décident 2022, Russian River Valley, offers an incredibly fresh, clean presentation of gooseberry and celery leaf, white pepper and lime peel, smoke and an elusive snap of gunflint; the wine aged 12 month in all new French oak barrels, a process that lends it a subtle, faint, almost subliminal haze of wood shavings, vanilla and lightly buttered cinnamon toast; again, a talc-like texture driven by bright, seething acidity that defines the mouth-feel through to the finish of chiseled limestone minerality; a few minutes in the glass unfold touches of quince and crystallized ginger; deep in the heart of this sauvignon blanc lies a shining drop of slightly raspy black currant, a hidden radiance. 13.7 percent alcohol. 98 cases produced. The name means “the rocks that decide.” Drink now through 2027 to ’29. Exceptional. About $85.