For Jennifer Williams, great sauvignon blanc depends on the hunt. “I’m always looking for small, flavorful, juicy berries,” explained Williams, the winemaker of Napa Valley’s Arrow&Branch. Williams is behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the Arrow&Branch, 2015 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc at $35. What makes the Arrow&Branch a standout is its great minerality coupled with its tasty stone fruit. With its bright acidity and a citrus finish, it’s well-crafted and refreshing.
“There’s a lot of sauvignon blanc planted out there, so it’s about selecting the best vineyard sources,” Williams said. “I like to find sauvignon blanc growing on distinct soils, in different climates and conditions.” Williams said what the uninitiated don’t know is that in Napa and Sonoma one clone of sauvignon blanc has been widely planted. A clone is a cutting or bud of a mother plant, genetically identical of the first. “When you mix the clones together,” she said, “you get a very interesting wine.”
Williams said she’s a good fit for producing sauvignon blanc because she fancies the varietal. “I enjoy drinking them,” she said. “And I’ve been making sauvignon blanc for many years from all over the north coast. I really enjoy sauvignon blancs which are layered. I also like them to be fresh and minerally, steely with a nice stone fruit component.”
Williams, 40, was born in San Diego, and she graduated from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo in 1999. “I discovered winemaking in college and I came to Napa Valley for an internship,” she said. “That first year, I was too young to buy the wine I was working to help create. But what struck me was the mixture of agriculture and community which wine brings together.”
Williams soon realized she liked putting her sense of smell and taste to work. “I love playing around in the kitchen, growing food, and I think that exercising the senses in those pursuits helps make me a good winemaker,” she said. Williams said the wine she’s shooting for is a fresh Loire style white. “We really want that minerally component.”
Williams said her strength is that she started in the vineyards and knows how to pamper the vines. “That’s my educational background,” she said. “I managed vineyards. I spend lots of time walking vineyards, falling in love with their soils, rethinking their trellises — really getting to know them.”