Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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Posts Tagged ‘Semillon’

What we’re drinking: Bainbridge’s Victor Alexander

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Brynn writes:

Victor Alexander’s Semillon 2009 is one of Brynn’s favorite wines from winemaker Charlie Merrill. Unfortunately it’s apparently everyone else’s favorite too because Merrill doesn’t have any bottles left to sell.

While selling out is a good problem to have, it’s too bad because his Semillon is the perfect wine to sip while on the back deck of the Island Vintners tasting room where Merrill sells his wines alongside Jim Wilford’s Fletcher Bay Winery and Paul Bianchi’s Amelia Wynn Winery.

This light- to medium-bodied wine has floral notes on the nose, but time spent on oak is evident on the finish, which has a slight vanilla finish. Hints of apple and custard carry through this wine, which is reminiscent of crème brulee.

While we wish there were more supply for people to try while visiting the tasting room, we recommend letting Merrill or the tasting room employee know you hope to try the Semillon so Merrill makes sure to make it again.

*This is part of a series of reviews of Bainbridge Island wines recently tried at the Bainbridge Uncorked event, which featured the island’s winemakers.


Washington white wine blend best for pasta primavera

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

As Ann Vogel points out spring is here — we technically shepherded in the first day of spring Tuesday. While daffodils are starting to bloom, tulips are pushing through the frosty ground and trees are starting to blossom, if you ask us, winter still has its grips on Kitsap.

So it’s with wishful thinking that we write this wine pair, looking forward to what we hope will be a warmer, sunnier spring than what we experienced last year.

This week’s recipe for Pasta Primavera and our wine recommendation are a great combination for spring. The food highlights the best of the season — fresh vegetables prepared in a lighter style — and so we’ve chosen a wine that also fits the light and fresh criteria, while still having enough weight to stand up to the depth of varying flavor.

Similar to our recent recommendation for green beans with lemon zest, we’re recommending a sauvignon blanc-inspired wine for this dish. But instead of pushing a pure sauvignon blanc, this time we think a blend of white varietals best suits this vegetable heavy dish.

It’s because of its inclusion of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, Semillon and viognier that we recommend Maryhill Winery’s Winemaker White Blend for both of Vogel’s primavera dishes.

This is a great white wine for the spring and summer months because of its versatility. It’s a perfect wine to sip chilled while taking in the sunshine and heat of summer, or in this case to accompany a pasta dish filled with veggies and natural flavors.

The viognier gives this wine a nose of melon and tropical fruit, but the citrus and green flavors of the sauvignon blanc help cut through the cream sauce and enhance the flavors of the asparagus. The weight of the chardonnay and Semillon hold up to the added veggies like yellow squash, which keeps this wine from getting lost with the medley of freshness.

This Washington winery is located in Goldendale, but it sources its grapes from some of the state’s top vineyards. The wines are affordable, making them even more appealing.

The Maryhill Winemakers White Blend can be found at most grocery stores and runs in the $8 to $12 range.


Washington white best for mushroom risotto

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

A nice creamy risotto could call for two different styles of wine depending on how you decide to prepare it.

We’ve decided to prepare it two ways, allowing us to suggest two different wines that we’d serve with the dish if it were on our tables at home.

The richness of Ann Vogel’s Fresh Mushroom Risotto calls for a wine with equal richness. That’s why we’re recommending a Sémillon.

But before we get into why we would choose Sémillon, a little history. At one point it is believed that Sémillon was the most-planted grape in the world. That’s not the case anymore, and in fact some of France’s top Chateaus in Bordeaux recently joined together to create an association focused on growing quality clones because a decline in the grape’s popularity was resulting in fewer nurseries growing quality wine.

In Bordeaux it’s common to see Sémillon blended with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, in fact these are the three main grapes that make up traditional white Bordeaux blends.

The grape is also used to make some of the world’s best dessert wine, which is produced by leaving the grapes on the vine until noble rot takes over. The noble rot causes the grapes to shrivel, which dries up the moisture in the fruit and intensifies the acid and sugar levels.

In France, when Sémillon is the dominant grape being blended, it creates wine masterpieces like Château d’Yquem Sauternes.

We Washingtonians are lucky because we have wineries here that produce some stellar Sémillons, including one of Walla Walla’s oldest wineries L’Ecole No. 41.

L’Ecole actually produces two Sémillon wines, one from a series of well-known vineyards in the Columbia Valley appellation and its estate-grown Luminesce.

Both are blended with Sauvignon Blanc, but the Sémillon is 83 percent Sémillon, 17 percent Sauv Blanc, while the Luminesce is 67 percent Sémillon and 33 percent Sauv Blanc.

When the Sémillon grape dominates, the wine has a rounder mouthfeel with more floral, fruity notes.

If you decide to add some extras to the mushroom risotto — like asparagus and lemon — Sémillon is definitely the best match. L’Ecole’s Sémillon retails for around $14 and can be found at the grocery store and most wine shops.

If you prefer to make Vogel’s recipe with her suggested prawns and chili pepper additions, we have a different white wine for you.

Because of the sweetness of the shrimp, and the spiciness of the chili peppers, we suggest another wine that does exceptionally well in Washington: Riesling.

In fact, the wine does so well that last year the leading variety of wine planted in the state was Riesling, which accounted for 33,500 tons of grapes picked.

While some are hesitant to try Riesling because of a fear of sweet wines, we’re here to assure you, there’s nothing to be afraid of. We even recommend grabbing a sweeter Riesling over its dry cousins.

The sweetness of the wine balances the spiciness of the chilies — this is why Riesling is often recommended to accompany spicy Thai food.

And as we said before, the sweet notes in the wine will highlight the faint sweetness of the prawns.

Consider a Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling, also sourced from multiple vineyards in the Columbia Valley AVA, which retails for around $9.


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