What does Washington’s Columbia Valley have in common with Southern France’s Languedoc? Absolutely nothing! The Just A Taste Heritage Wine Club typically tries to follow a theme each month, but now and then we come across simply delicious wines that are sure fits for the current season (and Eric’s temperament). This month, we are highlighting two lesser-known regions from the US and France which are both producing exceptional vino. Kick back, crack open a bottle, and check out this article featuring L’Ecole Columbia Valley Semillon 2017 and Gerard Bertrand Cap Insula Languedoc 2015.
Wine Snapshot: No. 41 Semillon Columbia Valley 2017
Winemakers: Martin Clubb & Mike Sharon
Region: USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
Grape Varietal(s): 85% Semillon, 15% Sauvignon Blanc
Viticulture: Vineyards: Klipsun, Rosebud, Stillwater Creek, Lodmell, Seven Hills - a combination of estate and contracted vineyards with strong focus on sustainable practices
Method: barrel fermented and aged for 5 months in neutral French Oak; no use of animal products for fining/filtration
Serving Suggestions: 44-48° F with light appetizers, fish, or roasted chicken
Age: Drink now through 2022
Refreshing with vibrant fruit and balanced acidity, this wine shows pretty orange blossom with layers of honeysuckle, honeydew melon, and lemongrass that persist through to a clean, succulent finish.
About the Columbia Valley Winegrowing Region
Columbia Valley is one of the largest AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), coming in at 11 million acres (the largest being the Upper Mississippi River Valley at 19 million acres). It extends across the Washington State border into northern Oregon. Currently, there are over 50,000 acres planted to vines representing 99% of all vineyard acreage in Washington. There are several sub-AVAs within its borders including the rising stars Walla Walla Valley, Yakima Valley, and Rattlesnake Hills (not to be confused with Barnett Vineyard’s Napa Valley Rattlesnake hill Cabernet Sauvignon, a personal favorite of my father). Due to its northern position, most vineyards lie on south-facing slopes to maximize sun exposure; however, don’t let the geographic location mislead you. Yes, Riesling is planted widely here, but so too is Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Chardonnay.
“L’Ecole N° 41 is a third generation, family-owned artisan winery located in the historic Frenchtown School depicted on our label.”
- L’Ecole Website
Though three generations may seem like relative newcomers compared to the multi-century generational wineries of Europe, in the US, it is quite a legacy, such as the case with L’Ecole winery. L’Ecole was founded in 1983 by Jean and Baker Ferguson, pioneers of the Walla Walla AVA. Today, the estate is operated by their son-in-law, Marty Clubb, and their daughter, Megan Clubb. Their children, Riley and Rebecca, represent the third generation of this family estate.
Gerard Bertrand “Cap Insula” 2015
Wine Snapshot: Gerard Bertrand “Cap Insula” Languedoc 2015
Producer: Gerard Bertrand
Region: France, Languedoc, Narbonne
Grape Varietal(s): 47% Syrah, 30% Grenahce, 23% Carignan
Viticulture: mature vines on limestone bedrock; all of Bertrands estates are moving towards Biodynamic practices
Method: hand harvested, 20-25 day maceration; 8+ months on combination of new and used oak
Serving Suggestions: 60-65° F with grilled meat, hard cheese, or charcuterie
Age: Drink now through 2022
Ruby red. Ripe and dried strawberry, red blackberry, and raspberry with dried herbs de provence, hints of leather, and dried meat. The texture is soft and ripe, showcasing an array of spices and the mineral aspect of the limestone terroir.
About Gerard Bertrand
Though Gerard Bertrand earned his fame on the rugby pitch, it was his father that first instilled in him a love of the vine. Gerard first helped his father, George, during the harvest of 1975 at their home Villemajou Estate in Corbieres; but after an unfortunate accident, Gerard returned home to take over the estate in 1987. Five year later, he formed the “Gerard Bertrand” wine company and since has acquired several other estates to add to their expansive portfolio. Despite this large growth, his love of nature has spread throughout all his estates, and his philosophy of “making wine in harmony with nature” can be seen throughout all his viticultural practices. Beginning in 2002, he has been on two-decade journey to convert all of his estates towards biodynamic farming.
About Cap Insula
The Cap Insula estate is located on the Massif de la Clape in Southern France’s Languedoc region. Millenia ago, this raised land area projected above the ocean. Over time, marine deposits formed a thick layer of limestone which shines through in the finished wines. Moving in harmony with nature, the entire estate is constructed from environmentally-friendly materials and has implemented biodynamic practices from early on.
This Rhone-style blend showcases the ripe red fruits and savory elements typical of the style, but the unique element is the limestone minerality which comes across as lively energy on the palate. Served chilled to tame the ripeness of the region, this wine is a perfect harmony of freshness and richness to serve on warm summer days.