By Chuck Hill
Wines of the Week Archive
I have been judging oyster and seafood wines for more than 30 years, and this is the 14th year of reporting on tasty white wines for seafood under the WinesNorthwest.com banner.
Our first week’s tasting of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon wines was paired with delicious crab cakes and a Louie-style shrimp salad. A few Pinot Gris and Riesling wines were sampled in a follow-up tasting.
The 2016 vintage in Walla Walla was the earliest – and longest – on record, coming in as one of the most perfect growing seasons ever. Winemaker Jean-François Pellet blended 15% Sauvignon Blanc in with Semillon for this wine, all from estate vineyards. Bright aromas of orchard blossom, lemon zest and mineral lead to a rich palate of apple, melon and citrus with refreshing acidity – perfect with crab cakes or other savory seafood.
This is the perfect season to visit Maryhill Winery in the eastern Columbia River Gorge near Goldendale, Washington. Warm sunshine and crystal clear views of the Gorge make for a quintessential NW experience with wine tasting, picnicking and a game of bocce adding to the fun. Check out the 2015 Semillon for its aromas and flavors of Fuji apple, lemon, pear and tropical notes.
Cadaretta wines are made in their state-of-the-art winery named Artifex near downtown Walla Walla. The winery also serves as a custom crush facility for other Walla Walla winemakers, supporting the growing wine community. A blend of 89% Sauvignon Blanc and 11% Semillon created a wine with ripe aromas of stone fruits, citrus and mineral with a crisp, seafood-friendly palate.
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. This tasty Sauvignon Blanc was born in an egg – a concrete egg fermenter imported from France, handy for seven months of sur lie aging. Look for aromas and flavors of bright pear, grapefruit, citrus and earthy mineral.
Hedges Family Estate
Pioneers of the Red Mountain AVA in Washington State, the Hedges family continues to produce memorable wines while promoting the region around the world. Their CMS Sauvignon Blanc has portions of Chardonnay and Marsanne (the C and M in the name) but offers a distinct Sauvignon Blanc profile in aroma and flavor. Lemon zest, grapefruit and tropical pineapple in addition to mango create a zesty wine to accompany Northwest shellfish.
Agate Ridge Vineyard
The Kinderman family’s Agate Ridge Vineyard produces some of Oregon’s greatest food wines with superb structure and excellent potential for future aging. Their flavorful Sauvignon Blanc offers citrus, peach and mineral flavors with a crisp finish and hints of honeysuckle and pear.
Canoe Ridge Vineyard
Canoe Ridge Vineyard in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA traces its name back over 200 years when Lewis and Clark named this ridge as they journeyed down the Columbia River. The explorers in their canoe are featured on the labels of the Expedition brand. This Sauvignon Blanc offers classic Columbia Valley aromas of fresh cut grass, lemon and hints of gooseberry and mineral.
Terry Sullivan and Molly Morison planted their vineyard in the Rogue Valley in 2005, beginning with Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo and Syrah in the “upper five” acres of the historic Bagley pear orchard. This unique Sauvignon Blanc was aged in an Acacia wood puncheon and offers notes of vanilla and toasty cedar over the fruit flavors of nectarine citrus.
Left Coast Cellars
Driving the paved, one-mile driveway up to this unique Rickreall, Oregon winery provides a glimpse of wine country land stewardship at its finest. Lovingly cultivated gardens and fields of wild flowers yield to meticulously tended vines. The Orchards Pinot Gris offers bright aromas and flavors of pear, grapefruit and melon with notes of ginger and spice – delicious with seafood!
This flavorful wine was made from grapes grown in the vineyard directly in front of the winery, which includes the original 1979 planting. The aromas of jasmine, honeysuckle and apple lead to a complex palate of apple, citrus and mineral flavors with a tiny hint of Riesling petrol on the finish – a very tasty wine with shellfish.
A to Z Wineworks
The 2015 A to Z Pinot Gris is a blend using fruit from 30 different Oregon vineyards, fermented separately to enhance complexity. Tasters enjoyed the wide variety of aromas and flavors including peach, apricot, pear and kumquat. Notes of baking spice, ginger, Asian plum and mineral help bridge the wine to a wide variety of cuisines.
Made by King Estate Winery under their King Vintners brand, this wine is available exclusively at Amazon.com. One doesn’t always hear of “balance” and “structure” when speaking of Pinot Gris, but this wine excels in both categories, giving the taster a complex palate of apricot, fig and lemon-lime with notes of sur lie aging adding interest on the finish.
Panther Creek Cellars
Panther Creek Cellars was founded in downtown McMinnville, but now welcomes visitors daily at their tasting room on Highway 99W in Dundee, Oregon. Consulting winemaker Tony Rynders crafted this food-friendly Pinot Gris using stainless steel fermentation to preserve bright fruit and vibrant flavors. Stone fruits, citrus, orange blossom and spice pair well with all seafoods.
This winery on the south slope of the Chehalem Mountains is named after a contraction of the owners’ first names: Vicki and Don Hagge. This is the third vintage from the winery’s estate vineyard block of Pinot Gris. Look for aromas and flavors of pear and melon with notes of spice and honeysuckle.
Wines from other areas
My tasters’ eyes light up when they know that quality Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is on the table. Most come from the Marlborough region on the northern end of the South Island. At this tasting the favorite was Matua featuring tangy gooseberry and grapefruit but with complementary flavors of melon, guava and mineral.
Coming in a close second in a split decision, Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Wairau and Atawere Valleys in Marlborough. A food-friendly accompaniment to shellfish and other seafoods, Dashwood offers aromas and flavors of grapefruit, guava, lemongrass and passion fruit with hints of mineral and spice on the finish.
Matanzas Creek Winery
Winemaker Marcia Torres Forno expanded the scope of Sauvignon Blanc production at Matanzas Creek when she arrived in 2010. She blended in a dab of Semillon and used various styles of fermenters, including the concrete eggs mentioned above. Look for floral and herbaceous aromas with hints of citrus. The palate offers grapefruit, Asian pear and fig flavors.
Madrigal Family Winery
This wine comes from grapes grown at the Madrigal family estate in Calistoga at the north end of the Napa Valley. Delicate floral and spice aromas lead to a firm palate with flavors of grapefruit, melon, citrus and herbs. The wine pairs best with white fleshed fish from the grill.
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