Full Pull Summer

Hello friends. Quick-hitter reoffers today on our two Block Wines whites, now that we’ve hit peak white wine drinking season:

2015 Block Wines Semillion Tauro Block Boushey Vineyard 

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.

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 Boushey’s vineyard is in the cooler part of the Yakima Valley). Our partner winemaker Morgan Lee 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; seven months with weekly battonage and partial malolactic conversion.

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.

International Wine Report (Owen Bargreen): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91pts.”

2015 Block Wines Chenin Blanc Gnarl Block Rothrock Vineyard

Long-term list members might remember our old “Save The Chenin” series from back in 2009 and 2010. It began with a conversation with Doug Rowell of McKinley Springs Vineyard, who mentioned to me back then that they had to rip out a lot of their old-vine Chenin, because it was simply not a grape that was in fashion, and hence did not command high enough prices to keep it in the ground. What I took from that conversation was: the way to save good, old-vine Chenin is to drink more good, old-vine Chenin. Here’s another chance to do just that.

Rothrock is a vineyard in the Yakima Valley, northeast of Prosser, that you’ve likely never heard of. But it’s old. How old? Well, the current owner doesn’t know, so I don’t know either, but the estimates are that it was planted sometime between 1974 and 1978. So, about 40-year-old vines: ancient by Washington standards. Here is a picture from our 2016 vineyard trip that hopefully conveys the ridiculous girth of these plants. There’s nothing quite like old-vine material.

In 2015 our Chenin fruit was harvested on August 27. August harvests are rare in Washington, but 2015 was an exceptionally warm year, and we wanted to be sure to preserve as much natural acidity as possible. The grapes were whole cluster pressed and fermented with native yeasts, then aged in two-thirds neutral French oak and one-third stainless steel with weekly battonage and partial malolactic conversion. Finished alcohol is 13.1%, and finished residual sugar is a barely-perceptible 4 g/L (0.4%). It begins with a nose of honeycrisp apple and pear fruit, complicated by that signature Washington Chenin note I usually associate with malt powder. It adds a lovely layer of savory complexity here. The palate offers terrific richness and density for such moderate alcohol. The mid-palate turns creamy, and that creamy texture persists through a long, chamomile-inflected finish. This will only grow more savory and complex with the passage of time.

International Wine Report (Owen Bargreen): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91pts.”

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