Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Light and flavorful white wines to pair with seafood dishes are among the most beloved wines around the world. We tasted some crisp Albarino from both its native Spain and from Oregon, tasty Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire in France and from the Northwest, and Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc from Oregon and Washington.
Abacela proprietors Earl and Hilda Jones are dedicated to the production of Spanish varieties in Southern Oregon and this grape does very well in their Umpqua Valley region. Aromas and flavors of pear and apple mingle with notes of citrus and honey – tasty with both oysters and mussels, as well as other seafood. Be sure to visit touting their Vine and Wine Center which doubles as a tasting room and educational center for sustainability and green living, open 11am to 5pm, near Roseburg. Abacela.com
Fillaboa produces wine solely from estate-owned fruit, and Bodegas Fillaboa is unique in their commitment to a single bottling per vintage for the U. S. market. This very special Albarino should be sought out for its superb balance of tropical aromas and flavors mingling with dusty mineral, pear and lemon. It is a delightful seafood wine and makes a nice counterpoint when tasted against Sauvignon Blanc.
Among the original wines hailed as those that best accompanied oysters and other seafoods were the crisp white wines of the Loire Valley in France. Blanc Fume, Sancerre, Muscadet and others have been served with seafood of the nearby Atlantic coast for centuries. The Saget family produces each of the favored wines of the area including this flinty and complex Blanc Fume featuring citrus, pear and tropical fruits on both the nose and palate.
This wine is part of King Estate’s Vineyard Designate program matching superb vineyard sites with meticulous winemaking. Croft Vineyard is located southwest of Salem, Oregon along the Willamette River. Tasters enjoyed this wine’s ripe fruit of pear and citrus with complex spice and sur lie character – best paired with rich seafood choices or seafood dishes with rich sauces. Kingestate.com
Grapes for this refreshing Sauvignon Blanc came from Mercer’s Princeton Vineyard in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Processing of the fruit and fermentation were conducted in such a way as to encourage grapefruit and passion fruit flavors in the finished wine. Look for bright citrus aromas and flavors with hints of new mown hay, gooseberry and lychee. Mercerwine.com
This wine came from a mix of vineyards in the wide Columbia Valley AVA of Washington State. This produced a complex wine showing many aromas and flavors such as key lime, honeydew melon, stone fruits, gooseberry and honey. The finish on the wine is bright and crisp to pair with your favorite shellfish or other seafood. Waterbrook.com
Grapes for this value-priced wine were sourced from the Saget estate vineyards in the Loire and also from select vineyards in the South of France. The wine is elegant and understated with clean and balanced flavors to pair with many seafoods. Look for aromas and flavors of white flowers, flinty mineral, white peach, lychee and hints of citrus.
Here’s another fresh and friendly Oregon Pinot Gris that fills the bill for sipping with seafood or light snacks. Winemaker Sarah Cabot crafts the Primarius brand for Precept Wines to show spicy pear, floral perfume, lime zest and crisp acidity on the finish. Primarius.com
Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Gris was among the Oregon Pinot Gris bottlings that the Washington Wine Writers group featured at a comparative tasting in Seattle in 1988. We enjoyed the differences between the (only) seven Pinot Gris then available from the Willamette Valley. Ponzi’s Pinot Gris has gone on to set the bar for excellence featuring a bouquet of floral aromas, honey, white pepper and citrus aromas. Flavors of pear, kumquat and stone fruits delight the palate. Ponziwine.com
The Steiner Block at King Estate is a tribute to Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the biodynamic approach to agriculture in the 1920s. At 1,033 acres, King Estate is the largest Demeter USA-certified biodynamic vineyard in North America. My tasters enjoyed this special Pinot Gris for bright aromas and flavors of stone fruits, tropical citrus, pear and honeydew melon.
This wine was cold fermented in stainless steel then allowed to age sur lie, giving the wine a creamy texture over the distinct Pinot Gris fruit. Look for aromas and flavors of juicy pear, apple and honeydew melon.
Skagit Crest Vineyard and Winery is located in Washington’s Skagit Valley near Sedro Wooley. The six-acre vineyard is planted on a southwest slope and provides the fruit for most of the winery’s bottlings. The winery has a tasting room in the historic town of La Conner. Skagit Crest Pinot Gris offers aromas and flavors of ripe peach, grassy herbs and melon with a hint of citrus. SkagitCrest.com
King Estate’s winemaking team crafted this wine from grapes grown at Foris Vineyard in Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley AVA near Cave Junction. Aromas of wild flowers and white peach mingle with tropical guava and melon. The medium bodied palate is redolent of stone fruits, crisp citrus and hints of earthy mineral.
In my mind, Pinot Blanc is to Pinot Gris what Semillon is to Sauvignon Blanc – a richer wine with distinctive aromas and flavors that require a bit of getting used to. This complexity and richness serve to complement many seafood dishes such as mussels and other bivalves served simply in their own juices mingled with wine. Look for pear, fuji apple, lime and lychee with notes of earthy mineral and lemon grass. Wvv.com
Friday, June 14, 2019
Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with Crab Cakes
With an abundance of delicious local seafood available here in the Pacific Northwest, it is the perfect time of year to enjoy white wines and enjoy a perfect pairing. Oysters, crab, mussels, shrimp and scallops are the immediate go-tos, but finfish preparations are also popular.
Each of my seafood wine columns will feature several wine varieties, with one or two being the main focus. Today the carte du vin is dominated by Sauvignon Blanc, a grape that gained it’s initial fame in Bordeaux but now is widespread and enjoyed in all corners of the world. Some Semillon wines are included in the reviews as well.
Chef Ted crafted his delicious signature crab cakes (heavy on the crab, light on the filler) using local, fresh Dungeness crab and served with his own tasty remoulade sauce. This lightly flavored species is most delicious in preparations that allow the delicacy of the crab meat flavor to show. Crab cakes include quite a bit of seasoning and therefore a crab species with more robust flavor might be preferred (in past years we have used blue crab lump crab meat). The blue crab meat is no longer available from our past supplier.
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This wine is a classic blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon that shows the best attributes of each varietal. The complex aromas and flavors include a cornucopia of fruits, herbs, mineral and hints of toast. It is a full-bodied wine that worked very well with spicy crab cakes offering notes of zingy lemon and the attending refreshing acidity. Perfectly structured for further aging if desired. Delillecellars.com
This wine has an unusual pedigree that adds up to a bright and flavorful pairing for almost any seafood dish. Blended from 76% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Sauvignon Musque and 9% Sauvignon Gris, it offers tropical aromas and flavors of pineapple, melon, citrus, guava and stone fruits. It was a hit with my tasters and it should please you too! Drycreekvineyard.com
Grgich Hills Estate 2016 Fume Blanc, Napa Valley - $31
Grapes for this wine came from Grgich Hills’ vineyards in the southern, cooler part of the Napa Valley in American Canyon and Carneros. The wine exhibits the classic Grgich structure and balance with aromas and flavors of tropical fruits, citrus and mineral along with nuances from oak aging: toasty cedar and vanilla – a nice complement to Dungeness crab. Grgich.com
Winemaker Jean-François Pellet crafts a small production of this near-perfect seafood wine blending 93% Sauvignon Blanc and 7% Semillon from Walla Walla Valley vineyards. The wine is aged in neutral French oak and a concrete egg yielding delightful aromas and flavors of ripe stone fruits, passion fruit and melon with a vein of citrus running through to the crisp and balanced finish. Pepperbridge.com
If you’re in Walla Walla, be sure to stop in at the Browne Family Vineyards tasting room at 31 E. Main St. The location features wines from Browne Family, Ross Andrew, Waitsburg Cellars and Cavatappi. A convenient patio is available for al fresco sipping. You might try this rich and flavorful Sauvignon Blanc, offering fresh herbs, citrus and passion fruit with hints of gooseberry and wet stone. Brownefamilyvineyards.com
Amavi Cellars 2018 Semillon, Walla Walla Valley - $24
This wine is a blend of 85% Semillon and 15% Sauvignon Blanc, barrel fermented in 100% neutral French oak, the character of dominant Semillon is mellow and refined due to meticulous winemaking by Jean-François Pellet and his staff. Look for aromas of white peach and lemongrass followed by flavors of tropical fruits, Meyer lemon and a finish of crisp acidity and mineral. Great with crab cakes! Amavicellars.com
Cadaretta 2018 SBS Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon - $23
This vintage of the popular Cadaretta SBS is a blend of 66% Sauvignon Blanc and 34% Semillon, and did not see oak contact during any part of its production. The wine is a slightly richer version of previous vintages offering herbs and citrus with notes of tropical fruit, melon and hints of grass. Cadaretta.com
L’Ecole No 41 2017 Semillon, Columbia Valley - $15
The grapes for this wine were sourced from respected vineyards throughout the Columbia Valley, including Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley and Royal Slope. The winemaker’s blend of 85% Semillon and 15% Sauvignon Blanc allows for great varietal character of fig, honeysuckle and lemongrass with hints of floral perfume and citrus. The full-bodied palate suggests rich seafood dishes or light meats. Lecole.com
Black Stallion 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley - $26
Black Stallion Winery is located in the Oak Knoll District on the east side of the Napa Valley on the Silverado Trail. It was once home to the Silverado Horseman’s Center. Black Stallion Napa Sauvignon Blanc offers aromas and flavors of tropical pineapple, melon and citrus with a lingering finish of crisp acidity and wet stone minerality.
Three Rivers Winery 2017 Sauvignon Blanc - $18
Winemaker Holly Turner crafted this fruity Sauvignon Blanc from grapes grown at Gamache Vineyard in Washington’s Columbia Valley AVA. The wine was aged for 3 months in French oak, 10% new. Look for light aromas of tropical fruits, floral perfume and citrus leading to a crisp palate of kiwi, jasmine and hints of spicy oak. Threeriverswinery.com
Noble Vines 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, 242, Monterey, CA - $13
This zesty Sauvignon Blanc is named for the Sauvignon Blanc block in the winery’s vineyard in the San Bernabe AVA, Monterey, CA. Winemaker James Ewart places great emphasis on harvesting the grapes at just the right time to get the perfect balance of flavor characteristics. Look for grassy lemon-lime, kiwi, stone fruits and melon – nicely balanced to accompany seafoods.
Lobo Hills 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Yakima Valley - $18
Tony Dollar and his wife Diana operate Lobo Hills winery out of their home in Seattle, finding an enthusiastic following among the wine cognoscenti in this urban center. Tony sources grapes for this wine from the Yakima Valley, usually Lonesome Springs and Airport Ranch Vineyards. Bright citrus on the nose and palate mingles with grassy herb and mineral to highlight the seafood flavors without overwhelming. Lobohills.com
Season Cellars 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Southern Oregon - $20
This newer winery calls on nearly 60 years of experience in the Southern Oregon wine industry. Season Cellars is operated by Scott Henry IV and Jennifer Henry with the goal of creating distinctive wines from grapes acquired from the areas best growers. Look for aromas and flavors of grassy herb, lemon and hints of baking spice.
The strides that have been made in box wines in the last decade are remarkable. Bota Box has led the way with green packaging and recyclable containers, but most of all with a consistent product that pleases the palate across a broad selection of wine varieties. If you are having a seafood party, be sure to include this value-priced offering for its citrus, lemongrass, stone fruit and melon flavors with bright acidity on the finish. Botabox.com
Wednesday, June 5, 2019
Copper River Salmon
The much-heralded Copper River salmon are caught most by gillnet in Prince William Sound at the mouth of Alaska’s Copper River. This spring fishery is tightly controlled to preserve the species and is subject to the vagaries of weather and the run of the fish. The flesh of the fish is rich in oil and Omega 3 fatty acids – a healthy choice and delicious from the grill!
This rich and flavorful salmon pairs best with Pinot Noir when grilled. The smoky nuances from grilling add complexity and bridge the fish flavor to the toasty and fruity Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir wines vary from bright and fruity to heavier styles showing toasty oak and rich earth and mineral.
Archery Summit 2017 Pinot
Noir, Dundee Hills - $65
The Archery Summit estate in Oregon’s Dundee Hills is comprised of six vineyards across 120 acres in one of the world’s finest areas to grow Pinot Noir. Winemaker Ian Burch came to the estate after holding positions at several of the Willamette Valley’s most noted wineries. This vineyard-designated bottling offers both power and finesse. Look for aromas and flavors of dark cherry, plum, and floral perfume with finishing notes of vanilla and baking spices.
Here is another elegant and complex wine from the 2014 vintage that helps put Oregon on a pedestal of international Pinot Noir fame. Ripe black cherry, cinnamon, clove and espresso lead to complex cherry candy, violets and mineral. A favorite with our grilled salmon, showing ample acidity and hints of toasty oak to pair with smoke from the grill.
Tyee Wine Cellars 2015 Pinot Noir, Estate Barrel Select - $35
Winemaker Merrilee Buchanan Benson created this wonderful Pinot Noir, which was a favorite of my recent tasting panel. Aromas of cherry, strawberry and hints of grapefruit lead to a palate of tart red cherry, pomegranate and mineral with superb acidity for pairing with rich and flavorful Copper River Salmon.
The Montinore Estate was founded in the 1980s just as the Oregon wine industry was really growing. Rudy Marchesi acquired the 210-acre estate in 2005 and continues as the property’s general manager. The 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir is fruity and elegant featuring spice coffee and plum aromas with cherry flavors and crisp acidity that are well suited to lighter dishes like salmon.
Laurelwood 2017 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley - $12
Winemaker Josh Maloney crafted this flavorful Pinot Noir from select vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Look for aromas of cherry and sandalwood leading to black cherry, blackberry and currant flavors with soft tannins on the finish.
Who says great Pinot Noir has to be expensive? A to Z Wineworks began as a partnership of Oregon wine industry veterans who knew how to find the grapes and make the wine to please both the palate and the pocketbook. Aromas and flavors of dark Bing cherry, candy cherry, baking spice and earthy tar complement salmon from the grill.
Copain 2016 Pinot Noir, Tous Ensemble, Sonoma Coast - $28
The French meaning of the word “copain” is “friend” or “buddy” and the winery seeks to extend the name to the philosophy that wine enhances life’s most joyous occasions. The winery location overlooking the bucolic Russian River Valley is open for tasting by appointment. Look for aromas and flavors of plum and cherry with notes of rose petal, orange peel and fresh raspberries.
Chehalem 2017 Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains AVA - $30
This estate grown Pinot Noir is a blend of wines from four estate properties farmed by Chehalem and Stoller: Wind Ridge Vineyard, Ridgecrest Vineyard, Corral Creek Vineyard and Stoller Vineyard. The wine offers aromas of dark fruits and pomegranate with earthy flavors of dark cherry, mineral and cherry candy.
Rosé of Pinot Noir
This favorite Pinot Noir Rosé is made from virtually all clones of the variety grown at Willamette Valley Vineyards: Dijon 114, 115, 667 and 777, and Pommard and Wadenswil clones as well. A modified saignee method (bleeding free run juice from grape clusters later used for the red wine) is the production technique. Look for bright strawberry, watermelon, ruby red grapefruit and hints of tropical fruits and spice.
Sokol Blosser 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Estate - $25
The proprietors of Sokol Blosser are the son and daughter of the original founders Susan Sokol and Bill Blosser. Alex and Alison are enthusiastic second-generation winegrowers who take great pride in the quality and reputation of their wines. Grapes for the Rosé come from a specific estate vineyard block that produces delicate, aromatic fruit. Enjoy aromas and flavors of melon, stone fruits, juicy rhubarb and citrus.
PINO 2016 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Oregon - $20
This highly perfumed Rosé has a secret advantage of the addition of 10% Pinot Gris in the cuvee. Classic aromas and flavors of strawberry and watermelon are joined by hints of white flowers, spice and citrus.
Elk Cove 2017 Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley - $19
Elk Cove and the Campbell family have participated in all things Pinot Noir in Oregon for over 40 years. This includes a bright and flavorful Rosé offering strawberry and melon and a finish of citrus and mineral.
Chehalem 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains - $25
This popular Newberg-area winery and tasting room have been an important part of wine growing in Ribbon Ridge and the Chehalem Mountains. Three vineyards were the source for fruit used in this wine: Corral Creek, Olenik and Omero. Look for aromas and flavors of strawberry, rose petal, grapefruit, pomegranate and spice.
Brooks Winery 2018 Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley - $20
On your tour of the Eola Hills, take time to visit Brooks Winery on Cherry Blossom Lane on a hilltop with views of the vineyards and valley floor. The tasting room offers tiers of opportunities to enjoy wine, food and hospitality – something for everyone! The food-friendly Rosé offers strawberry, herbs, grapefruit and hints of pomegranate, pear and melon.
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