Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bring On The (Washington) Semillon!

I recently had a strange flashback to the year 2000. Back then, I was near the beginning of my wine education and would attend these weekly tastings around town. I would taste the wines and like many of the others in the room, I would leave learning nothing. Some of the people pouring the wines were just as clueless as me. The blind leading the blind. I got tired of feeling defeated so that same year, in the dead of winter, I decided to start furthering my wine education by taking a class offered by a local wine shop. The class was "Bordeaux." I remember arriving and wondering if I would be the only person there that evening. It was snowing hard, but back then I was fearless-- a little snow would hardly stand in the way of my learning all there was to know about Bordeaux. (Disclaimer: After enduring many years of bad winters, I no longer do silly things like drive 10 miles during a blizzard warning to go wine tasting but looking back, while I did not learn everything there was to know about Bordeaux, I do have a wonderful wine education to show for it!) Eventually, a few more people showed up and it ended up being myself and four much older gentlemen, a wheel of Maytag Blue cheese and several bottles of Bordeaux. We sampled whites, reds and dessert wines. The white wine was Chateau Carbonnieux, one of the most revered and splendid white Bordeaux bottles on this planet. Believe it or not, I don't remember the vintage, but the way it made me feel the moment I took in the aroma on the nose is something for the memory books. I will never forget how my head just wanted to explode! Just picture a Warner Brothers cartoon and the character that gets hit over the head and has bells clanging all over the screen. That was me! I somehow was carried off this planet and into a new universe! It was my defining moment...

I had that moment again and again several weeks ago when I sampled two very unique wines from Washington state. It must be the Semillon...

Semillon. The casual wine drinker will say, "What the heck is that?" Well, I'm here to tell you that if you are not drinking Semillon, either straight up or as a blend with Sauvignon Blanc, you are missing out on a great experience, my friends! Sixty years ago, Semillon was the most widely planted white wine grape in the world. Nowadays, it is not as widely produced which I believe is the reason why there isn't much of a choice out there (especially here in the US) of wines made either of this grape alone or as a blend with Sauvignon Blanc. When blended with Sauvignon Blanc, it gives the wine a little more luscious oomph--a taste of honey.

The two wines I recently sampled are from opposite ends of Washington state. The first was the 2008 Andrew Will Cuvee Lucia Velvet Canyon. After seeing the movie "Merlove," I contacted Andrew Will Winery to let them know how much I enjoyed watching their winemaker, Chris Camarda in the film. They e-mailed me back and the next thing you know, a box of wine samples arrived. This wine is phenomenal and has easily become a favorite of mine. In a nutshell, I have to have some more! The winery is located on Vachon Island, near Seattle. The wine is composed of 50% Semillon/50% Sauvignon Blanc (all Columbia Valley fruit) but it is a unique animal! Luscious, round, juicy. Like sinking your teeth into a ripe white peach dipped in honey. It was playful and just amazing! And clanging bells? They were everywhere! I jumped for joy. This wine literally blew my head off, as I've told the folks over at Andrew Will. It sells for about $25 and it is worth every penny and more.

The next wine is the 2008 Luminesce by L'Ecole No. 41, a winery near Walla Walla. This wine arrived at my house as part of a myriad of nice samples the winery sent me recently. It is the more serious counterpart to the one I just spoke about. And I say serious because it is completely different in taste and texture but equally as enticing! The "Luminesce" is made up of 70% Semillon and 30% Sauvignon Blanc, all Walla Walla Valley fruit from the Seven Hills Vineyard. It was bright and fruit-forward, full of melon and citrus with a crisp, mineral finish. The bells were clanging again. $19 at the winery. I'm telling you, it's the Semillon! L'Ecole No. 41 also does do a Semillon straight up and I am looking forward to hopefully trying that sometime! All in all, this was yet another mind-blowing experience. All I want to do is sit down and breathe in the aroma of these two wines and sigh!

These wines are available through the wineries' websites, and I have a new best friend. His name is Semillon. I'm so glad I found him!

1 comment:

  1. I also loooove Semillon as well! It's a shame not alot of people know about this delicious varietal! I need to try the wines you mentioned - thanks for sharing. Look forward to your next post!