If you’re like me — and I’m certain that in many ways we are alike and in many, probably more important ways we are not — the words “Arroyo Seco” would not burst from your lips if someone asked you, “Where in the world are the best places for growing the sauvignon blanc grape?” Still, I recently tasted six examples from that AVA in Monterey County and found them mainly excellent and even, in a few cases, not only excellent but highly individual. Arroyo Seco, which receives on average 13 inches of rain annually — hence “seco” — was granted AVA status in 1983, though wine grapes have been grown there commercially since 1961. The terrain varies considerably for a smallish AVA, consisting of a bit more than 18,000 acres, about 7,000 planted to vines, with narrow ravines, benchlands, dry riverbed and valley floor and the resulting diversions of wind, fog and temperature. What these wines have in common, aside from their origin in the same AVA, is a use of the musqué clone of the sauvignon blanc grape to varying degrees. As the name implies, the musqué clone imparts a musky, almost muscat-like quality to the wines, usually apparent in a marked floral, sometimes overtly spicy element. The clone must be used carefully. I have tried sauvignon blanc influenced by musqué that were so intensely perfumed as not to even seem like wine. The six models mentioned in this post, thankfully, are better balanced.

As usual with the Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew data of a historical, geographical and personnel nature for the sake of incisive notices ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebooks, my desire being to pique your interest in the wines.

These wines were samples for review.
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Bernardus Griva Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Arroyo Seco. 13.9% alc. With 5% semillon. Very pale straw-gold with green highlights; ripe and spicy pineapple and lemon, notes of lime peel and lemon balm and a hint of fig, fresh grass and hay in the background; a leafy and sunny sauvignon blanc, powered by bright acidity and a chiseled limestone element; bracing elements of grapefruit and tangerine peel round the finish. Excellent. About $30.
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Chesebro Wines Cedar Lane Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Arroyo Seco. 12.4% alc. Very very pale, almost colorless; grapefruit, lime peel and lemongrass, with whiffs of greengage and ground cumin, fennel and celery seeds; very dry, delivers a huge hit of flint and limestone, as well as rousing acidity and a note of bracing grapefruit rind bitterness on the finish. Makes a definite impression. Excellent. About $18, available to winery club members only.
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J. Lohr Estates Flume Crossing Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Arroyo Seco. 13.8% alc. Very pale straw-gold hue; a pert and sassy sauvignon blanc, with notes of gooseberry, lime peel and grapefruit, fennel seed, lilac and acacia; nicely herbaceous on the palate, with a talc-like texture jazzed by vibrant acidity; a clean, bright and lively sauvignon blanc offering lots of appeal. Very Good+. About $14.
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Luli Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Arroyo Seco. 14.2% alc. 504 cases. Pale gold color; a stirring bouquet of lemongrass and lime peel, lychee and gardenia, tangerine and pear, with undertones of quince and crystallized ginger; lithe and supple on the palate, propelled by resonant acidity and scintillating limestone elements, all enfolded in a subtle haze of neutral oak; the finish blends spice and minerals, with herbaceous nuances. A joy to drink. Excellent. About $18, representing Great Value.
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Mercy Wines Zabala Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Arroyo Seco. 13.5% alc. 176 cases. Pale straw hue; quite fresh and appealing, with hay and heather notes, tangerine, roasted lemon and yellow plum, melon, acacia blossom and a tinge of celery seed; crisp and vital with chiming acidity and vivid limestone and flint elements; lovely balance and immensely drinkable. Excellent. About $24.
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Muirwood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Arroyo Seco.13.5% alc. Very pale straw-gold; roasted lemon and tangerine, celery seed, fennel and gooseberry; a hint of ripe peach; really lovely texture, exquisite balance between moderate talc-like lushness and dynamic crispness; racy, lively and alluring, with spicy citrus and stone-fruit flavors ending in a refreshing grapefruit finish. Excellent. About $15, marking Good Value.
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