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It's that time of the year when I regularly start walking the vineyards. Our Estate vineyard has 19 blocks with 9 varietals. Inspecting the vineyard block by block, it is fascinating to see how each variety comes to life each year. This year, the vines started showing little hints of green a week or so ago with each block showing bud break at different times. Some varietals, like Grenache, are the first to bud out, but then takes its time developing. Others, like Sauvignon Blanc and Barbera, are middle of the pack but once they bud out, it is a sprint, and they are done quickly. Others, like Zinfandel, bud out later. On the Estate, we have 6 blocks of Zinfandel, and it's interesting to see the effects elevation and soil depth have on the vines. Six blocks of Zinfandel all budding out at different times!
I will continue to keep you posted on our Estate vineyard development throughout the year. We will also schedule tours so you can see for yourself what is going on in the vineyards.
-Mark Fowler, Winemaker
Old World vs. New World: Sémillon
A shadowy figure Sémillon cuts; DOES IT EVEN EXIST?! It’s a mysterious grape that knows how to blend in. And it sports disguise names—perhaps it is a spy! But reporting to whom?
No, Sémillon has an identity all its own that strikes me as a secret love child of Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. It has that lanolin lick that gives it weight reminiscent of Chenin Blanc, and is likewise prone to botrytis, but can be herby and lemony and have striking acidity that calls to mind Sauvignon Blanc. Or is it just that it gets blended with Sauvignon Blanc, so we get confused? To add to the ball of confusion, given age, Sémillon gets those fun toasty and honeyed notes.
It has its idiosyncrasies, and yet it hides.
It takes cover behind the names Bordeaux and Sauternes . It masks itself in blends, botrytis, and oak…maybe Sémillon (also sometimes spelled without the accent over the e) WANTS to remain under the radar. Well, I’m blowing its cover. Sorry, Sémi, your time has come. Now take off your baggy wool sweater and strut your stuff.
I’m so sorry, I don’t mean to objectify it; it’s just more people should seek it out. This is my opinion, but you’re welcome to borrow it.
True, some of the most famed Sémillon-based wines are Sauternes, that lusciously sweet and ethereal nectar that gets its kick from noble rot. Those are another story. One I should write soon, probably.
But today I am looking at the dry Sémillon-based wines of the world.
Sémillon is mysterious in roots as it is in personality. It is similar to Sauvignon Blanc genetically, but they don’t seem to have a parent-child relationship. Its origins may be in Bordeaux’s Left Bank, or even the Entre-Deux-Mer, but confoundingly enough, it might be named for local pronunciation of St-Émilion, despite the fact that Semillon isn’t really cultivated there. But that is just a rumor.
I confess I likely tasted some of these far earlier than they would show best—although I’ve been told that during the first few years, they can be be great, then shut down until they are maybe 7. At least this is the lore of Hunter Valley.
Speaking of, shower wine pick? I’m going with the Andis Old Vines. Old vines because I like a wine from a vine with experience if it's gonna see me naked.
2019 Andis Wines Bill Dillian Old Vine Semillon
Andis is a perennial favorite of mine. Out of undersung Amador they also make a Barbera that makes my heartstrings go pling. But I’ll stick with the Semillon review right now. This Semillon would be a daytime robe. It is comforting, with plush apples and honey notes and the body of silk but its medium weight silk you want to wrap yourself in. But the acidity is acute, so you can get some work done while wearing it. It’s actually a robe that can translate from work-from-home robe to home dance party when the day is over and you are ready for fun robe, as it ends with flowery notes that invite you to party.