By Chuck Hill
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Wines of the Week Archive
This year the first months with Rs have been dry ones. Records have been set for lack of rainfall and as of this writing in early October, no rain is in the foreseeable forecast. The weather is cooling, and last night saw the first frosts in Western Washington. Our fall tradition of slurping half-shell oysters and tucking into wine-steamed mussels is a great treat with flavorful white wines seemingly vinted for just this purpose.
Today’s article pays homage to the crisp and grassy Sauvignon Blanc and it’s New Zealand cousin sporting aromas of gooseberry and green olive. We also honor the Semillon grape with a handful of examples from Washington and Oregon. There’s surely room for both varietals on the table.
We slurped delectable Kumamoto oysters from Taylor Shellfish – modest-sized morsels that provide a taste of the sea and dance with dry white wines on the palate. Also served are Chef Ted’s wine-steamed mussels – either the local species or the popular Mediterranean cousin. For oysters and mussels to accompany your holiday festivities visit www.taylorshellfish.com.
Winemaker Bob Bertheau crafted this crisp and flavorful Sauvignon Blanc from fruit grown in the Horse Heaven Vineyard near the Columbia River in Paterson, Washington. Part of the wine (40%) was barrel fermented in neutral oak adding some complex aromas and flavors. The nose offers earthy and grassy notes leading to a crisp palate featuring grapefruit, mineral and pear flavors... a tasty pairing with both half-shell Kumamotos and steamed mussels.
There are a few sites in northern Oregon where Sauvignon Blanc is grown successfully, one being Croft Vineyard in the southern part of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Amity winemaker Darcy Pendergrass crafted this flavorful and oyster-friendly wine. Look for aromas of spicy gooseberry, citrus, mineral and just a hint of grassiness. On the palate, add lime zest and honeysuckle with a complex citrus/mineral finish.
Winemaker Mike Januik blended 20% Semillon with 80% Sauvignon Blanc, all from the Stillwater Creek Vineyard on the Royal Slope of Washington’s Frenchman Hills. Aromas of tropical flowers, melon, mineral and citrus lead to a gentle palate of flowing citrus and mineral flavors that complements a freshly shucked oyster and begs another sip.
This is the eighth vintage of Sauvignon Blanc produced from Woodward Canyon’s Estate Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. Four different clones of Sauvignon Blanc were hand harvested and whole-cluster pressed. Stainless steel fermentation was followed by four and a half months aging in neutral French oak. Look for aromas of earthy mineral and floral notes with hints of gooseberry and citrus. The palate offers attractive spicy citrus flavors that complement Northwest shellfish.
Finn Hill Winery is one of the “garagiste” micro wineries located near
Seattle on the east side of Lake Washington. Owner/winemaker Rob
Entrekin crafts less than 500 cases annually, including this
soon-to-be-released Sauvignon Blanc from grapes grown at Roza Hills and
Mercer Estates vineyards. Aromas and flavors of grassy herb,
melon, mineral and floral notes complement succulent oysters and stand
up to the more assertive flavors of steamed mussels.
This wine is often appealing to consumers for the deep discounts offered at many retailers. The 2010 vintage has lost some of its freshness with age and now offers grassy and citrus aromas and a somewhat flat palate showing earthy mineral, melon and pear.
Ste. Chapelle Winery
Winemaker Chuck Devlin crafts a wide variety of wines for Ste. Chapelle Winery in Idaho’s Snake River Valley AVA near the town of Marsing. The wine offers distinct floral aromas and notes of spice, yielding an effect of juicy fruit gum. The palate is more traditional with melon and citrus notes leading to a crisp finish that pairs well with half-shell oysters.
Va Piano Winery
Owner/winemaker Justin Wylie returned to his native Walla Walla after his senior year at Gonzaga University spent in Florence, Italy. His passion for Tuscany and his passion for wine combined to inspire a Tuscan-themed winery and tasting room. Named for Wylie’s mentor Fr. Bruno Segatta, the wine offers aromas of pear, citrus and floral notes with flavors of stone fruits and tart citrus.
Hard Row to Hoe
Winemaker Judy Phelps crafted this wine from grapes grown at Lonesome Springs Ranch vineyard near Benton City in the east end of the Yakima Valley. The Sauvignon Blanc was blended with 10% Muscadelle. Look for aromas of pear and floral perfume leading to a soft palate of citrus, melon and tropical fruits.
Three Rivers Winery
Insania is a collaboration between Three Rivers winemaker Holly Turner and lead singer Geoff Tate of the rock-metal band Queensryche. This blend of 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc is crafted in a barrel-fermented style with sur lie aging in neutral French oak. Aromas of lemon zest, melon and mineral lead to a well-structured palate of citrus and wet stone flavors with a lingering finish of lemon and star fruit. It is a flavorful accompaniment to oysters and even better with steamed mussels.
This wine is a blend of 76% Sauvignon Blanc and 24% Semillon harvested from various vineyards in both warm and cool parts of the Columbia Valley AVA. Stainless steel fermentation and aging assured retention of fresh aromas and flavors in the finished wine with no malolactic fermentation. The wine offers light aromas of pear, melon and floral perfume with following flavors and hints of earthy mineral and citrus on the finish.
Agate Ridge Vineyard
A blend of 73% Semillon and 27% Sauvignon Blanc from the Agate Ridge Estate Vineyard, this 2010 wine has retained a fresh and vibrant character by virtue of its crisp acidity. Aromas of earthy mineral, pear and tropical fruits entice an expectation of roundness on the palate, but the wine instead brings crisp grapefruit and mineral flavors with a finish of bright acidity. It is great with oysters and the crisp palate promises to be a nice foil for rich cheeses or cheesy pasta sauces.
founders of L’Ecole No 41 crafted Semillon as their choice for a dry
white varietal from the very beginnings of the winery in 1983.
This Columbia Valley bottling is sourced from some of the finest
vineyards in the AVA ,and Marty Clubb has honed his winemaking technique
to yield a spectacular wine at a very reasonable price. Barrel
fermented and 50% aged sur lie, the wine offers aromas of orchard
blossom, honeysuckle and citrusy mineral. The palate is rich and
flavorful with Meyer lemon, fig and notes of stone fruits and mineral.
Winemakers Mark Newton and Tracey LaPierre blended 15% Sauvignon Blanc with Semillon to create this flavorful wine. The aroma opens with citrus, green melon, ripe fig and sharp grassy notes in the background from the Sauvignon Blanc. The palate is full bodied offering flavors of ripe stone fruits, mineral and herbs.
This is a most unusual Semillon for its origin in the lowlands along the Willamette River at Wheatland, but the proof is in the glass with the wine showing superb Semillon character and a zesty affinity for shellfish. The nose offers pear, peach and chalky mineral with notes of citrus. The palate is crisp and dry with stone fruit and citrus flavors yielding to notes of honeysuckle and orange blossom on the finish.
Winemaker Jean-François Pellet crafts his Walla Walla Valley Semillon from the most renowned vineyards in the area and blends it with 11% Sauvignon Blanc. The wine offers aromas of white peach, earthy mineral and ripe fig leading to a rich palate of stone fruits, citrus and tropical notes that leave a slightly sweet impression on the finish – a tasty wine with Chef Ted’s steamed mussels.
Wines from other areas:
Joseph Phelps Vineyards
Superb grape growing and impeccable winemaking techniques very often lead to excellent wines. Such is the case with JPV Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa Valley. Ranked at the top by my tasters, the wine offers complex aromas and flavors of jasmine flowers, lemon curd, melon and mineral in addition to toasty, vanilla and caramel notes from aging in 30% new French oak. Excellent structure on the palate pairs well with both oysters and steamed mussels.
Dry Creek Vineyard
Dry Creek Vineyard has been producing award-winning Fume Blanc since 1972, and winery founder David Stare was the first to plant Sauvignon Blanc in the Dry Creek Valley. Complex aromas of grassy herbs, lime leaf, flinty mineral and peppery olive lead to crisp green apple and citrus flavors with a clean finish of mineral and floral notes – great with oysters on the half shell.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs have become very popular in the wine world for their assertive aromatics and tangy palate that pair well with many modern dishes. The Paretai bottling from Matua Valley is a reserve-style wine from selected vineyard sites in the famed Marlborough growing region. Look for aromas of gooseberry, mineral and tropical fruits with flavors on the palate echoing the nose – a classic oyster wine if you’re a fan of the gooseberry character.
This wine brand focuses on the Monterey region of the Central Coast of California and really hits the mark with this exceptional Sauvignon Blanc. My tasters were very impressed with the balance and clarion (but restrained) varietal fruit –“not over the top with herbaceous.” The nose offers dusty/flinty mineral, bright citrus and hints of grassy herb and olive. The palate shows nice grapefruit, gooseberry and melon flavors.
This is the signature Sauvignon Blanc from a winery that produces several versions of the varietal. Showing great complexity on both the nose and palate, it is a very tasty accompaniment to half-shell oysters and plays equally well with rich steamed mussels. Look for aromas and flavors of melon, floral perfume, new-mown grass, fig and tropical’s fruits – very refreshing.
Villa Maria Estate
Fruit for this wine was sourced from vineyards across the Marlborough region in the Wairau and Awatere valleys spanning a range of different meso-climates. Intense aromas and flavors of gooseberry, passionfruit, citrus, melon and herbs complement and contrast the flavors and textures of half-shell oysters and flavorful steamed mussels.
This classic seafood wine was blended of 84% Sauvignon Blanc, 8% Sauvignon Musque and 8% Semillon from the Coyote Hills and Knights Crossing Vineyards. A small percentage of the wine was barrel fermented and aged to add texture and complexity. Aromas of dusty mineral, lilac, lime, herbs and white peach invite a sip, revealing flavors of tangy lemon and grapefruit with peach and garden herbs on the finish.
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