Toquade Wines produces a single vintage single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc each year. This very small wine brand is owned and operated by Christine Barbe whose wine making history dates back to 1991 in her hometown of Bordeaux, France. During her time as a doctoral student at the Bordeaux Institute of Enology she worked with a number of people who were passionate about Sauvignon Blanc, and as a result she learned the finer nuances of how to taste for ripeness and when to harvest to ensure the best possible aromas and flavor. She graduated from the University of Bordeaux with a degree in Enology and Sciences in 1996.
She was hired by Gallo Family Winery, came to California in the mid 1990s and also spent some time in research and managing vineyards at Robert Mondavi Winery (working for another French winemaker at Mondavi, Genevieve Janssen). Later she worked at Trinchero Family Estate as an enologist. After her work at these larger wineries – her career now is focused on only working with only small producers including as the winemaker for Coquerel Wines (a boutique Calistoga based producer).
The name Toquade is a tribute to Christine’s French heritage – it is French and means “craze” or “infatuation”. This would be an appropriate label for many vintners who have a focused passion towards winemaking, and in this case reflects Christine’s own passion towards the Sauvignon Blanc variety.
University of Bordeaux today
Her first commercial vintage was in 2006 which at only 100 cases was already sold out at the time of our tasting many years ago. Today each vintage is still small – usually less than 300 cases. Sauvignon Blanc is the only wine she makes each year. In a sea of red wine producers her decision to produce one wine from this single varietal is extremely unique. All fruit for this wine (and all of her vintages) is sourced from a premium organically grown single vineyard in Yountville.
Yountville is Napa Valley’s “sweet spot” for growing this variety and we have sampled a number of delicious Sauvignon Blanc wines from this appellation. The vineyard is on the valley floor close to the Napa River and contains deep soil and deep roots – all dry farmed. The wine is made in a French style; with slightly higher acidity and the focus being on the characteristics of the fruit, both on the bouquet and with the flavors.
The 2007 Toquade Sauvignon Blanc. No oak is used in the fermentation or aging of this wine. It is aged sur lie for 6 months with frequent stirring of the wine and lees. As a result, this helps impart a roundness and richness to the actual mouth feel. The wine is straw colored – the bouquet has pleasant notes of lime, grapefruit and other citrus aromas. As it opens up in the glass tropical floral nuances become more pronounced. The palate is slightly creamy in nature, is well balanced with pleasant tropical flavors including lychee. The finish is clean and crisp with a hint of mineral notes. This wine will pair wonderfully with shellfish, Thai food or a variety of other sea food pairings. Only 200 cases produced.
The 2008 Toquade Sauvignon Blanc is pale straw in the glass with a bouquet showing mineralities and pronounced citrus aromas including lemon lime and tangerine blossom. This is a leaner styled atypical Sauvignon Blanc (for Napa Valley) that shines best when paired with food and is perfect for tasting with a variety of cheeses. Like Toquade’s earlier vintages this wine saw no oak and was aged in stainless steel barrels on the lees for 7 months. Weekly stirring helped create some of the mid palate structure and weight.
Christine’s Sauvignon Blancs are not the riper fruit picked at higher brix wines that are commonly found for this variety. Rather she picks at a lower brix and stays away from the influence of oak, preferring to show the varietal expression rather than any winemaker influences. The palate shows green apple and lemon zest with red grapefruit nuances towards the finish. This wine has lively acidity and carries some nice weight throughout the body.
Ten years can fly by in a blink of an eye; it has been exactly 10 years since we last tasted Christine’s wine. The 2018 Toquade Sauvignon Blanc is 100% varietal and like all the other vintages is still being sourced from the same dry-farmed organically grown single vineyard in Yountville. It is the color of straw in the glass; offers aromatics of green apple, guava, gooseberry, lemon zest and a more subtle sweetness deeper in the bouquet (a hint of vanilla extract and citrus blossom). As the wine breathes further (several hours after opening) shows a sweet honeysuckle note. Superbly balanced across the palate the wine feels supple with a slight creamy-like texture. Offers flavors of Gravenstein apple, not overly ripe pineapple and lime. The wine lingers with a freshness. Shows lively acidity but is not tart. Lingers with a racy finish. 280 cases were produced.
As of our latest update to this review, Toquade is still one of just a handful of Napa Valley based producers focusing entirely on a white variety. When we first met, Christine was looking for additional vineyard sources and, in the future, may also offer a red wine. The wines are only distributed in California and locally one can sometimes find select vintages at V Wine Cellars in Yountville, Backroom Wines in the city of Napa, Oxbow Wine Merchants and several area restaurants.
For Sauvignon Blanc enthusiasts, this tiny and very focused producer absolutely needs to be on your radar.
Napa artist Larry Otis composed a delightful instrumental called Toquade, best paired with a bottle of the Toquade Sauvignon Blanc.
For more information and to join Christine’s mailing list, visit: www.toquadewines.com