Hello friends. We debuted the new vintage of our Block Semillon yesterday during our open Saturday, and it showed great. Today we’re offering it to those of you who we didn’t see yesterday (or those of you who we did see yesterday and who now realize they need more Semillon in their lives):
All of our Block Wines really begin at the vineyard/farmer level, because what we’re trying to do with each wine in the lineup is express a particular patch of earth. So let me start there, and say that the opportunity to work with any of Dick Boushey’s fruit is a dream come true. The Boushey Vineyard name in Washington is synonymous with quality and expressiveness. Dick himself is a wonderful man and a terrifically dedicated grower, and it is a real thrill to be working with his Semillon. He has two blocks of Semillon, and we have chosen the Tauro Block (planted in 2008), which has more northern exposure and therefore ripens later and retains loads of beautiful natural acidity.
Perfect for the type of Washington Semillon I was dying to help produce. There are still a few folks making varietal Semillon here (L’Ecole 41 being the most notable/consistent), but many are now going more of the Bordeaux Blanc route and blending their Semillon with Sauvignon Blanc. Nothing wrong with that, and in fact, versions from Buty and Cadaretta are among the most successful whites made in Washington. But I wanted to do varietal Semillon, because I think it thrives in Washington, because I don’t think it necessarily needs Sauvignon Blanc’s acidity if you harvest the Semillon early enough, and because I think it can express terroir and age beautifully if grown by the right people in the right places.
Our stylistic goal bends more towards a Hunter Valley (Australia) Semillon than a Bordeaux version. What that means is limey acidity, and (hopefully) the ability to age in profound directions. Having been lucky enough to taste some older L’Ecole Semillons, I can say without question that Washington Semillon can stand the test of time. Even our inaugural vintage, the 2014 (long since sold out) is already displaying more weight, more savory/flinty character, and more overall complexity, and that’s with just one additional year in bottle.
To achieve our style, we harvested the grapes nice and early, on September 1, which kept acids fresh and bright and alcohols low (13.3%) despite the warmer year (it also helps that Dick’s vineyard is in the cooler part of the Yakima Valley). Morgan then cold soaked the grapes on their skins for 48 hours to help build texture and mouthfeel. We used three neutral French barrels, and then just a little bit of stainless steel for the extra juice that wouldn’t fit in those barrels. After seven months in barrel (with weekly battonage and partial malolactic conversion), this went into bottle a few months ago. Our overall production was 94 cases.
One of the things I love most about our Semillon is how it pairs with the summer cuisine of the Pacific Northwest. Pan-seared spot prawns, Dungeness crab cakes, sockeye salmon shioyaki-style; the list goes on. Crack a chilled bottle of this with northwest seafood for some serious northwest nirvana. It kicks off with a layered-fruit nose: citrus (lime), tree (pear), and more exotic notes like date and fig. Subtleties of hay and crème fraiche complete an inviting nose. That extra skin contact works wonders on the palate, offering just-right textural heft, a pleasing sense of plumpness, especially in the mid-palate. The lovely finish lingers with notes of chamomile. Drink it this summer for its refreshing character and seafood-pairing possibilities, and then hold a few bottles into the fall (or longer!). It should put on more weight, and it should move those savory notes more to the fore, just in time for a place on the Thanksgiving table.
This wine continues to be a real joy to make. I want to thank Dick Boushey for growing the grapes and Morgan Lee for making the wine. I hope you folks are as fond of this wine as we all are. First come first served up to 24 bottles, and the wine is in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.