Domestic Selection: Semillon, 1985, Alderbrook

••CORRECTION: I reported in a previous article that the two grapes in white Bordeaux were semillon and sauvignon blanc. I erroneously noted that the sauvignon blanc adds the flavor and body while the semillon contributes the acid. OOPS! It’s the other way around.. . Oh well, you’re never too old to learn or too young to admit it.•••

I still think Paul subconsciously picked this semillon so I’d never forget that point again. Most-likely not. It is a wonderful wine and a great way to start off the new year.

In 1981, Mark Rafanelli purchased a 63 acre ranch in Dry Creek Valley and went into partnership with John Grace and Philip Staley to form Alderbrook Winery. The 70-year-old redwood barn located on the property was rebuilt as a bonded winery. John directed the replanting of 55 acres to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and now overseas all vineyard operations. Phil, who serves as winemaker, is in charge of all winery operations.

The vineyards are located in the southernmost sector of Dry Creek Valley, an area influenced by the Russian River and the Pacific Ocean. Cool afternoon breezes frequently accompanied by coastal fog, alleviate the long, hot summer days. The slow maturation of the grapes helps in producing the richest and most flavorful wines.

Until recently, semillon was largely ignored by California vintners despite its wide and successful use in Europe. Its ability to handle heat endeared it to the hot climate areas because it could also produce large quantities of fairly good and inexpensive wines. However, by treating semillon with the respect it deserves, and planting it in cooler areas, one can be rewarded with a spectacular wine.

And, so you are with this selection. While we can’t claim to have tasted that many semillons because there just aren’t that many out there, this is by far the best.

The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, undergoing a long, cold fermentation to bring out as much flavor and character as possible. It was then aged in French oak before being bottled.

The color is golden. Not on the orange side like older wines, but a true yellow gold color seldom seen. As you swirl it around, thick legs slowly envelop the glass and glide back down.

The nose is very forward. Rich, full aromas of figs and melons are surrounded by spicy, vanilla extracts. The taste continues the fig and melon components mixed with spice and vanilla, but also adds some peachy, appley components. It has a long finish, very clean and surprisingly tart with nice, mouth cleansing acids.

The big flavors and pleasant acids will go extremely well with shellfish like shrimp scampi or a scallop mousse with tomato coulis. Serve chilled.

Late Bulletin: This Alderbrook Semillon went or to win a gold medal at the prestigious Los Angeles County Fair Wine Competition. We seem to do this often…pick our Wine of the Month Club selection early on…then the medals start happening.

Cellaring Notes: Although the wine has a lot of flavor and good acids, it may not hold up for more than a couple of years or so. Besides, it’s so good right now, why wait?

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