Between the Vines is a biweekly column on wine and winemaking in the Livermore Valley region. This column was contributed by members of the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.

Each month, Livermore Valley wine country highlights a grape varietal grown in our region. July's featured varietal is sauvignon blanc, a green-skinned grape used to make refreshing, crisp, dry white wine that is also known as fume blanc. The grape is originally from the Bordeaux region of France and is popular in California.

Livermore Valley vintners like to put their own spin on this classic varietal, with flavors that range from vibrant lemongrass and herb to tart green apple, round melon and fig.

"Sauvignon blanc has a long history of growing in the Livermore Valley, and it grows well. We chose to produce it because we wanted a refreshing white option for those hot summer days," says owner Heather McGrail, of McGrail Vineyards and Winery.

"Being known for cabernet, we are excited to offer a white Bordeaux that is refreshing and fruity for our customers. Nothing else in the world comes close to the flavors you get from sauvignon blanc. They can only be described as, well, sauvignon blanc," says fifth-generation winemaker Karl Wente, of Wente Vineyards. "The deep, gravelly soils, warm days and cook nights of the Livermore Valley are well-suited for sauvignon blanc."

Winemaker William Smyth, of Westover Winery and Vineyards notes that the varietal "can be oaked or produced in stainless steel and makes a wine that offers complexity not often found in white wines. It is a white wine that stands up and can improve with aging."

"Sauvignon blanc produces a lighter white wine than most chardonnays," says winemaker/owner Dane Stark, of Page Mill Winery. "It is leaner in fruit and body, and its predominant characteristics are fresher to the palate and love to be cold, making it an ideal summer wine and aperitif."

Livermore Valley winemakers agree that oysters are the number-one choice with sauvignon blanc. "The salty and briney character of the water are cleared perfectly on the palate by sauvignon blanc," says Stark. "The lingering short bread character is washed away once again with the splash of a sea wave and the next oyster. If you don't have oysters, try oyster crackers, Dubliner Cheddar and dried apricots." Find sauvignon blanc at these Livermore Valley wineries: Bent Creek Winery, Bodegas Aguirre Winery, Charles R Vineyards, Concannon Vineyard, Crooked Vine Winery, Cuda Ridge Wines, Dante Robere, Darcie Kent Vineyards, Fenestra Winery, Little Valley Winery, Longevity Wines, McGrail Vineyards and Winery, Mitchell Katz Winery, Murrieta's Well, Occasio Winery, Page Mill Winery, Retzlaff Estate Winery, The Steven Kent Winery, Wente Vineyards and Westover Vineyards. To learn more, visit www.LVwine.org or www.discovercaliforniawines.com.

wine country events:

  • Taste Our Terroir -- July 18-21 (times and event prises vary, so visit www.LVwine.org for exact details. Livermore Valley's premier food and wine affair now spans four days. On July 18, the annual quest for food and wine pairing excellence has 20 winemakers partnering with Bay Area chefs to compete for honors. Taste all of the pairings and cast your vote for the coveted People's Choice award! On July 19-21, wineries across the region host cooking classes, barrel seminars, vineyard tours and more. On July 20, join winemakers for a varietal dinner in an elegant wine country setting.

  • Music in the Orchard Summer Concert Series -- 6 to 9 p.m. July 25. Purple Orchid Wine Country Resort & Spa, 4549 Cross Road, Livermore, CA 94550; www.purpleorchid.com. Cost is $15. Join us for the first summer music series with Nottingham Cellars, Altamont Beer Works and Ken's Wood Fired Pizza. Proceeds will benefit the Pedrozzi Foundation, which encourages and helps Livermore students in their pursuit of higher education and advanced training by providing scholarships, information and other resources. First up is Wolf Hamlin and the Front Porch Drifters! Call 925-606-8855 for more information.