By Chuck Hill
About Chuck PREVIOUS COLUMNS
Pinot Noir & Salmon
White Rhone Varietals
Italian Varietals in America
and Malbec REVIEWS BY
Pinot Noir & Salmon
White Rhone Varietals
Italian Varietals in America
REVIEWS BY VARIETAL
Wines of the Week
Oysters and Mussels
Each year I get ready for fall by tasting crisp white wines with local Pacific Northwest oysters and mussels. The oysters are shucked and served on the half shell, and the mussels are steamed over a sauté of garlic or shallot with parsley and white wine. By serving the tasters both oysters and mussels, it allows for a greater range of wines to find compatibility.
My first column in this series offers wines of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon as these light, refreshing wines are perfect for the waning days of summer. Next time, we will delve deeply into the Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc wines.
Jeff and Sheila Jirka founded Davenport Cellars in Woodinville in 2006 and consistently produce small quantities of excellent oyster and mussel wines from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The 2012 Semillon was very popular with my tasters for pairing with both oysters and mussels. Look for aromas and flavors of lemon, fig and earthy mineral with notes of spice and dried herbs.
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Winemaker Bob Bertheau crafted this crisp and tasty Sauvignon Blanc from grapes grown at Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Horse Heaven Vineyard. The wine was fermented 60% in stainless steel and 40% in neutral barrels for added spice and texture. The wine offers bright aromas of grapefruit, dried herbs, pear and floral perfume leading to a crisp citrus palate that pairs very well with oysters on the half shell.
DeLille Cellars first released Washington State wines in the early 1990s concentrating on Bordeaux varieties – red wines in the beginning. In time, a Bordeaux-style white became part of the production, featuring a proportion of two-thirds Sauvignon Blanc and one-third Semillon. In this vintage, look for aromas and flavors of grassy herbs, citrus and mineral with notes of toast and vanilla – complex and delicious.
South Stage Cellars
South Stage Cellars farms 300 acres of grapes in thirteen vineyards spread across Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley. Twenty-eight grape varieties are grown presenting opportunities for an impressive selection of varietal wines and blends. Pear and citrus highlight the aromas of this Sauvignon Blanc with soft floral and mineral flavors joining the citrus/pear mélange on the palate.
The dog days of summer are a splendid time to enjoy the Columbia River Gorge, and Maryhill Winery has so much to offer the wine-loving traveler. Enjoy live music on the tasting terrace, bocce on the world-class courts or just stroll the grounds admiring the panoramic views. No oysters are available in the tasting room, so pick up a bottle of this crisp and steely Sauvignon Blanc and shuck some at home for a great Northwest pairing.
Woodward Canyon Winery
This is the tenth vintage of Sauvignon Blanc produced from Woodward Canyon’s estate vineyards in the hills of the Walla Walla Valley. The wine is crafted from four distinct clones of Sauvignon Blanc – fermented in stainless steel and aged in neutral French oak. Look for aromas and flavors of melon, mineral and herb with a soft and complex palate.
The 2013 vintage in the Columbia Valley was the warmest in a decade – 2014 is also shaping up to be toasty – with cooling off just before harvest. Waterbrook’s winemaker John Freeman crafted this classic Washington Sauvignon Blanc showing grassy herb and gooseberry aromas and flavors mingling with citrus and flinty mineral notes. This style is a personal favorite that Waterbrook has been making for more than two decades.
Winemaker Dave Harvey blended 2% Roussanne with this stainless-steel fermented Sauvignon Blanc after whole-cluster pressing for richer and more expressive fruit flavors. The wine opens with light tropical notes of pineapple and mango mingling with citrusy grapefruit and Meyer lemon. On the palate, a blend of herbs and citrus lead the way with the finish returning to notes of tropical refreshment.
Amelia Wynn Winery
Winemaker/owner Paul Bianchi has been crafting wines at his Bainbridge Island winery since 1998. Named in celebration of Paul’s twin fraternal grandchildren, the winery crafts wines from a wide variety of Bordeaux, Rhone and Northern Italian grape varietals. The 2013 Amelia Wynn Sauvignon Blanc is complex on both nose and palate showing grassy herb, white peach, tropical fruit and earthy mineral – great with both oysters and mussels.
J. Christopher Wines
Jay Somers crafts his Sauvignon Blanc wines in an old-world style that features perfect balance and ample acidity to tame a half shell oyster. This wine is a perennial favorite with my oyster wine tasters. Look for aromas and flavors of grassy herbs, grapefruity citrus and rounding components of peach and pear.
Over the decades there have been some subtle changes in the production of Sauvignon Blanc wines at Hogue Cellars. For a while in the 1990s, they were adding a dollop of barrel-fermented Chardonnay to the blend and calling the wine Fume Blanc. It appealed to the vanilla twinkie lover in us Baby Boomers. The wine is now clean as a whistle and dry as a bone with citrus, herb and refreshing mineral guiding the way to a grand oyster pairing.
Bateaux Cellars is a small winery located near the Cowlitz River in Southwest Washington, crafting small quantities of mostly white wines from grapes grown in the Yakima Valley. The 2013 Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and refreshing, pairing its citrus, herb and floral character with both oysters on the half shell and steamed mussels.
L’Ecole No 41
From the very beginning of the winery in the mid-1980s, Semillon was the white wine of choice at L’Ecole No 41 in Walla Walla. Much has happened since the 1915 era Frenchtown School was saved from destruction and converted into a winery, but Semillon has been on the wine list all along. Recently, this blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc from the estate vineyard was added. Look for aromas and flavors of kiwi, passion fruit, tropical citrus and notes of honeysuckle and lime zest – great with oysters and mussels.
This flavorful Semillon was crafted from grapes grown at three esteemed Walla Walla area vineyards: Les Collines, Seven Hills and Goff. Winemaker Jean-François Pellet blended in 14% Sauvignon Blanc, which brought high notes and bright acidity to the finished wine. Aromas of lemon curd, flinty mineral and melon lead to a rich palate of tropical fruits, honeysuckle and pear – especially good with steamed mussels.
Wines from other areas:
Whitehaven was established in 1994 in the heart of New Zealand’s Marlborough growing region as part of the White family’s vision to create a respected and critically acclaimed winery. Their crisp and fruity Sauvignon Blanc offers aromas of white peach, grapefruit and flinty mineral, inviting a sip with your half shell oyster. On the palate, look for fresh citrus flavors and a zing of acidity on the finish.
Dry Creek Vineyard
Dry Creek Vineyard was the first winery to plant Sauvignon Blanc in the Dry Creek Valley. Oyster lovers revel in the crisp and grapefruity palate, but also enjoy the aromas of tropical fruits, floral notes and citrus. The wine is blended with 9% Sauvignon Musque, a unique clonal selection that adds tropical notes and richness to the mouthfeel.
The South Island of New Zealand is home to the Marlborough growing district featuring the warmest climate on the island. This Sauvignon Blanc has a distinctive delicacy not often found in Marlborough wines. Elegant aromas of grapefruit, lime, tropical flowers and guava lead to refreshing flavors of gooseberry and melon with a zesty finish.
This Sauvignon Blanc from Eastern Italy was a surprise to many tasters who didn’t know that such wines were grown and produced in that country. Notes of gooseberry and bell pepper lead the nose into the glass, revealing layers of pear and melon. The palate is tart with oyster-friendly gooseberry and grapefruit flavors.
The folks at Black Box travel the world looking for wines that give great value, and this Sauvignon Blanc is a great example. Keep some in the fridge for daily sipping or serve it from a carafe at your next seafood dinner party. Zesty peach and melon mingle with citrus and mineral on both nose and palate.