Grape Profile: Semillon

Semillon (seh-mee-YON) is a grape varietal that is a bit of a hidden gem among wine lovers. The grape is of French origin and is actually one of only three white wine varietals allowed to be grown in the famous Bordeaux region. However, Semillon is primarily known for its Australian-produced counterparts from the Barossa Valley and Hunter Valley in the Land Down Under. Other locations where Semillon is grown include South Africa, Chile, and of course, California.

This white grape is primarily used as a blend for Sauvignon Blanc, which is part of the reason for the varietal’s relative obscurity, but the grape can actually produce amazing wines on its own. Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards grows Semillon on estate vineyards, which produce wines with ripe fruit flavors, such as lime, lemon, grapefruit, kiwi, beeswax and vanilla, in the warm Sierra Foothills climate. The wine features a medium to full body and is bone dry with a clean acidity, making it a refreshing summertime wine. Semillon’s flavors of lemons and nectarines are a great pairing for full flavored chicken, seafood, pork, and in particular, Southeast Asian cuisine.

Next time you’re at the winery, give it try. You may just discover your new favorite varietal!

 

What Tasty BBQ and Good Wine Have in Common

People generally don’t think that wine and BBQ pair well together, but they actually have a lot in common, especially if you are using wood for your fire.

Let’s start with what you know and love: wine. Wine is aged in oak barrels. These barrels impart the subtle flavors of the wood into the wine. Aging wine in oak gives it a higher quality feel, along with additional taste characteristics. Through this process, the wood releases chemical compounds (phenols), which give the wine aromas of vanilla, caramel and other sweet scents, as well as the occasional smoky flavor. The end product of an oak aged wine is one with soft round flavors and a beautiful color to match.

As you probably know, oak has a similar effect with BBQ. Have you ever been sitting around a campfire for a while and leave to find yourself smelling like smoke? This is because the gases released by the wood as it was burning have infused into your clothes. Seems pretty obvious, right? The same thing happens when you use wood for your grill— the smoke particles attach to the meat giving it a smoky flavor. Different woods give different flavors and pair well with various foods (just like wine). Oak is best used when cooking beef or pork, as it is heavy wood that provides a medium to heavy smoky flavor without overpowering the characteristics of the meat.

Did you know you can combine wine, oak and smoke to create the perfect harmony of smoky meat with a hint of wine? By repurposing used wine barrels into wood chips or even logs, you can cook with wine and wood at the same time. Next time you are barbecuing, try adding some oak chips soaked in your favorite wine and see if you can taste the flavors.

The Unique History of Sangria

Originally from its humble roots in Spain, Sangria has become a worldwide sensation. While Americans first tasted the red wine punch at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, the history of Sangria can be traced back 200 BC.

Like many countries who were invaded by the Romans, Spain began actively planting grapes to make into wine and trade with the Romans. Soon, wine became the drink of choice for people of all ages. It is important to remember that before modern times water was full of bacteria and not safe to drink. Any liquid with at least some alcohol in it would kill the bacteria making it the beverage of choice. To liven things up, households who lived near where the grapes were grown would add other fruits and spices to the wine, giving it a different flavor. These ingredients made way for the traditional Spanish red wine punch, Sangria.

Sangria had another upgrade during the 1700s and 1800s when the British and French got involved. The new base of the punch became Claret (the British term for the French Bordeaux). Also added to the mix: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Finished off with a mix of fruits, a bowl of Sangria was found at every party from Cadiz to London.

Over the centuries Sangria maintained its popularity. It is relatively easy to make and is the perfect summer drink. The fresh fruit and your choice of your favorite red wines chill overnight to create a refreshing punch. These harmonious flavors create a drink completely unique to you and are ideal for any summertime fiesta.

Red: To Chill or Not To Chill

Red wines are traditionally served at room temperature, which is why your mother probably told you never to drink your red wine chilled. However, this tradition originated during the dark ages, a time where room temperatures were much cooler than they are now. Whether you blame global warming or recognize that people no longer live in concrete fortresses, the average room temperature has risen over the centuries. This means that it is acceptable and almost recommended to drink red wine chilled (especially in the summer).

An old red that is too warm tastes old, and a young red can’t show off its flavors. The perfect temperature to drink your chilled red is around 62℉- 65℉ (30 minutes in the refrigerator), which gives you the ability to separate the fruit profile and tannic structure. Not all reds need time in the refrigerator, but that does not mean they should not be chilled. Full-bodied wines like Zinfandel are best chilled in an ice bucket. With the heat of summer rising, now is the perfect time to go against the norm and try a chilled glass of your favorite red.

Why Pizza and Zin Are a Perfect Match

It may not be particularly apparent, but Zinfandel and pizza share a common origin. Zinfandel, which has become the California “work horse” varietal, is from Croatia, while pizza originated in Naples, less than 250 miles away.

Zinfandel, known as “Crljenak Kaštelanski” in Croatia, has a deep-rooted history in California. It established its tradition during the Gold Rush, when Zinfandel migrated from the Northeast region of the U.S. to the West. Its production skyrocketed in this time period because the grape could be easily cultivated using the traditional European “head pruning” technique, which didn’t require special equipment or scarce resources. The ready availability of Zinfandel, combined with its versatility and substance, made it highly popular with the area’s miners. Today, Zinfandel is an established red table wine and the third highest-grown grape in California.

Like Zinfandel, pizza in the United States has its roots abroad. Pizza migrated to the United States with Italian immigrants during the late 19th century, becoming popular in places with large Italian-American communities, such as New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Saint Louis. However, its popularity really took off after World War II, when returning troops created a large demand for the delicious dish they had discovered overseas.

When combined, Zinfandel and pizza create the perfect match—no Cupid necessary. Pizza is basically high gluten bread, tomato puree and mozzarella cheese seasoned with herbs and garlic, which produce fragrant odors. The brightness of the modest acidity of the wine is perfectly balanced by the tomato puree, which are typically very acidic. Zinfandel’s light tannins are perfect with the cheese and complement the tomato acidity. Both the wine and food have harmonious fragrance. Zinfandel is also very versatile and pairs well with a variety of pizza types, from the classic pepperoni and cheese to the heavy meat lover’s variation.

If all this talk about Zin and pizza made you hungry, be sure to come out for Endless Pizza Night on Fridays from 5 PM – 9 PM, where you can try this heavenly combination for yourself!

Why Zinfandel Is So Good In El Dorado

When one thinks of Zinfandel, it usually brings up images of California and even our region, which produces some of the best Zinfandels around. After sampling the quality in its bold flavors, you may be surprised to learn that Zinfandel is not native to California. The Zinfandel grape actually originated in Croatia, where its hills and cool climate lent themselves to the success of the grape before it made its way to the United States.

Zinfandels presence in El Dorado County began with the California Gold Rush, making it deeply rooted in the history of the area.  Miners and other settlers traveled to El Dorado County in search of gold and brought with them Zinfandel grapes.  While the age of prospecting is largely gone, Zinfandel stayed, thriving in the unique terroir of our region (the grapevine’s specific environment, such as soils, sub-soils, topography, exposure to sun, temperature, seasonal rainfall, fog and other climatic conditions).

Sitting at the edge of the Sierra Nevadas, El Dorado County ranges from 1,200 feet above sea level to 3,600 feet above sea level.  Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards is located at an elevation of 2,300 feet, creating a soil mixture of decomposed granite and crushed volcanic rock. These stressful conditions are loved by Zinfandel and are similar to its native land of Croatia.

Located above the fog line, wineries in El Dorado County sit at the perfect temperature for the grapes to mature. The long sunny summer days paired with the cool nights make it the ideal climate for the well-known California Zinfandel.

The unique terroir of El Dorado County gives Zinfandel distinctive flavors full of dark cherry, blackberry, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper, which is reflected across the many single-vineyard Zinfandels offered at Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards.  Though it may have originated in Croatia, Zinfandel has found a home and blossomed in El Dorado County.

A Brief History of Wine Futures

With our next futures release party just around the corner, it’s time for a refresher on all things futures. You probably have heard the terms “futures” and “en primeur” tossed around and may be wondering what the difference is, but the two are synonymous. En primeur is French for “in youth,”  meaning that the wine for sale is still in the barrel or tank and has not yet been bottled.

The practice of buying futures has been around for ages (the earliest record of futures is from 58 A.D.), gaining popularity in the 18th century.  During one of the many wars between Great Britain and France, the British experienced a shortage of wine, especially Claret (Bordeaux wines), which forced them to look to other countries, like Portugal, to fulfill their wine cravings. By the end of the 18th century, tensions lessened and the two nations resumed trade. It was then that classic practice of buying futures was born. Fueled by their love of Bordeaux wines, the British came up with the idea of buying wines en primeur in order to finance wine production in France.  By selling the wine en primeur, French producers received advanced payment, guaranteeing a harvest and covering the operational costs. This way, the French were able to continue making wine and British could continue drinking it.

The practice of futures has expanded since the 18th century and futures are no longer sold only to wine merchants. Now, wine lovers can visit a winery and try wine before it is bottled via a barrel tasting. In addition to being a novel wine experience, buying futures is also an investment. Most of the time, when you buy futures you have to wait about two years before it is bottled and released.  A lot can happen in two years, which makes the investment in futures risky, but also highly exciting. The uncertain outcome is offset by the ability to pre-order the wine at a highly discounted rate compared to the retail price of the wine once it is bottled. Thus, purchasing wine en primeur can be a really great deal.

Taste the Future at Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards

If you haven’t done en primeur tasting at the winery yet, you’ve been missing out on a very unique and historical wine experience! En primeur tasting (also known as wine futures) lets you try a wine at its infancy while it’s still aging in the barrel. The tradition goes all the way back to the 18th century, and although times have changed, what hasn’t changed is the great deal that buying wines in futures presents.

Besides being a novel wine experience, buying futures can be an astute investment. Buying en primeur means you’ll have to wait up to two years before your wine is bottled and released. A lot can happen in that time, which can make it a risky investment, but also highly exciting with a huge upside. The uncertain outcome is offset by the ability to purchase the wine at a highly discounted rate compared to the retail price of the wine once it is bottled. For example, the Charles B. Mitchell Grand Reserve usually retails for $48 per bottle, but when you purchase a case en primeur, it comes out to $25 per bottle. When you consider that the Grand Reserve consistently performs year after year, it truly becomes a great deal.

Make sure to give en primeur a try next time you’re at the winery. You’ll never know what you’ll discover.

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