Attending Semillon University, Part 1
presenting the egg
Natural Selection Theory 2010 “Quartz” Hunter Valley Semillon
John, Renee, Kate, Hardy listening to the egg
Stevie, Josiah viewing the egg
Okay, look, I’m totally joking about that “Attending Semillon University” bit. The truth is, most of us really do take wine THAT seriously, but this was just a super devoted Semillon party. Although at one point John, one of the hosts, did comment, “Dude. We’re making Ribolla jealous.”
We opened the occasion a touch early, before the big group arrived with a very special wine brought back from Australia. A small group of playful, and talented winemakers labeled the Natural Selection Theory (NST) made very small experimental lots of Hunter Valley Semillon in ceramic eggs. The story (which I’ve been slowly getting ready to write on in a few weeks, so I’ll leave many of the details for then) is full of brilliance, hilarity, and ultimately also sadness. Sam Hughes, one of the winemakers, died this recent December.
To be carrying one of NST’s ceramic eggs back then from Victoria, as a gift from David Fesq to be shared with friends here in California, was overwhelming. It’s hard to express how grateful I am.
Hardy Wallace, of Dirty & Rowdy Family Wines, knew of the NST project, and had considered NST’s Semillon a dream wine that he hoped, but didn’t quite expect to one day drink. Without knowing Wallace’s wish to drink the NST, when Fesq first gifted me the egg, I knew Hardy, and his wife Kate were the two people I would wait to open the wine with. We decided the party was the perfect occasion.
In recognition of Hughes’s work, in gratefulness for friendship, and in high regard for the true treasures of rarity that fill the world, a few of us opened Natural Selection Theory’s 2010 “Quartz” to open a Semillon party, that hosts Hardy Wallace, Matthew Rorick (of Forlorn Hope Wines), and John Trinidad (of Just-Plain-Awesome) all affectionately named “Semageddon 2013.” Dude, we even had t-shirts.
The wine in the egg turned out to be beautiful to drink, fascinating in its ever turning presentation, and rich in flavor with a truly juicy-vibrant finish. It could have aged for years more. It was one of my top favorites of the wines tasted. Coupling the loveliness of the wine itself, with the gratefulness of sharing the egg with such a group of friends… let me say, such moments are why I do everything I do. Thank you.
Jr. was kind enough to take pictures. The photos of the egg opening ceremony were taken by Jr. The rest were taken throughout the party by me. Following are notes too on a few of the stand out wines.
Photos from Semageddon 2013
Hardy and I with the egg
Having discovered that the Natural Selection Theory was one of Hardy’s dream wines, I asked if he would please do the honor of opening it for all of us.
Hardy and the egg
opening the egg
the answer is sharing in friendship
A Few Wines from the Party
Old Bridge Cellars sent along a three vintage vertical of Brokenwood’s Hunter Valley Semillon. The 2012 was a great example of how outrageously pert and nervy young Hunter Valley truly is. It was full of searingly focused lemon and white grapefruit with beach grass touches and a rich round mouthfeel. The 2008 hit decidedly between the two vintages, sliding closer to the 2012 in presentation than one would expect after tasting the earthiness of the 2007. The 2008 kept the citrus elements of the 2012 while dialing them in with a bit of a closed phase in comparison. The 2007 gave a nice insight into how rich, and earthy the Hunter Valley Semillon’s get with age, though the wine could have aged for years more. It complemented citrus elements with dried herbal aspects, richer on the palate than the nose. Pretty all around though. I recommend older vintages of Brokenwood.
Erin holding Tyrrell 1997
Sticking with the Hunter Valley, Tegan and Matthew brought some older vintages of Tyrrell’s Wines, one from 2007 and 1997. Both were great examples at the rich earthiness, dark dried beach grasses, and dried herbal aspects of aged Hunter Valley with still juicy juicy acidity. Both vintages were yummy, but the 1997 showed-up its brother giving a grounded richness that the 2007 seemed to be sleeping through before getting ready to show.
Amy and Renee with the Torbreck 2010 Woodcutter’s Semillon
Staying with Australia, but moving over to Barossa Valley, Torbreck sent their 2010 Woodcutter’s Semillon. The Barossa’s style gives wines with a lighter focus, and more rounded acidity compared to the high-nervy youth of the Hunter. Torbreck’s Semillon ages beautifully into herbal notes on a delicate frame. The 2010 shows an almost rustic focus right now as though the wine is rooting down to prepare for sleep before a big journey. It’s a tasty wine with more traction and less scream than its Hunter Valley cousins.
Josiah getting Dirty & Rowdy
Dirty & Rowdy debuted their newly bottled 2012 Semillon, showing what a blend of skin contact lots with a straight-to-press fermented in concrete lot can do. The result is a richly flavored, pleasurably textured focus on lightly salty beach grass, dried wild farmed herbs, and stone. The fruit is hiding right now, an indication, I believe, of even more to come from this wine. Where the 2011 D&R Semillon was feral and jive-talking, the 2012 carries sophistication and still hometown attitude. The jive talker has upgraded into a new suit and hat still coupled with b-boy shoes.
One of the real treats of the party included a five vintage vertical of Forlorn Hope‘s “Nacre” Semillon. The 2006 and 2007 were shared from magnum, with 2008-2010 offered in 750s. The 2006 gave a pretty, citrus blossom with smoky and sandy beach grass presentation followed by a long shivering, super juicy finish. The 2010, on the far other end, came in with zippy jalapeno notes, nut paper, and lemon plus white grapefruit zestiness. This vintage is not yet released and drinks like its pinching itself to wake up and get ready–not quite there yet but full of rich dreaming to share in the near future. In the middle, the 2008 was my favorite of the five vintages giving a lovely balance of earthy, grassy, herbalness, with refreshing citrus juiciness and dance. Yum.
In the dessert wine category, Bedrock‘s 2009 Late Harvest Semillon from the gorgeous Monte Rosso site picks fruit from late 1800s vines, planted at high elevation. The wine has great richness and concentration with a sneaking core of vibrant juiciness that washes the palate again and again. Lovely.
A Few More Photos
With so many wines to taste eventually the notes stopping being taken, and the moments were captured simply with pictures of standouts. Here are a few.
not yet released Weichi 2012 California (this wine is good-keep an eye out for it-it’s got a great round, lightly weighted mouthfeel with light beach grass, beeswax with hints of honey, touches of gooseberry and citrus)
John with Matthiasson‘s 2011 Semillon from Napa (this is an ultra small production wine that is refreshing, delicate, pretty, and clean. It’s a lovely combination of citrus, and tomato leaf that I really enjoy but also wouldn’t have blinded as Semillon.)
moose pie and corn
eventually we all fell into Burgundy
Hardy reaches to touch the Burgundy
(I love how Matthew gets progressively more excited as Hardy gets ever closer)
only some of the bottles
Thank you to Matthew Rorick, Hardy Wallace, and John Trinidad.
Check out this great write up on Semageddon 2013 by Tom Wark over on his blog, Fermentation: http://fermentationwineblog.com/2013/05/napa-come-for-the-wine-stay-for-the-people/
A few thoughts from Mister Hardy Wallace himself on it: http://dirtyandrowdy.tumblr.com/post/49784399237/the-day-after-semegeddon
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