Here’s a secret: Semillon is, and has always been, the greatest white grape in all the land. Some people would say that’s crazy talk but we’d just say hey, differences make the world go round, and of course there’s always room on the Semillon bandwagon once you see the light. It’s true, it’s all a matter of taste, and reasonable people can agree to disagree. That said, we’re making our white wine from a grape that is not a household name principally because we love it and believe in it. Plus, if none of you want to drink it we’re prepared to drink it all ourselves.
We came to Semillon via drinking, of course. As sommeliers we were (and as former somms, still are) fortunate enough to drink a ton of great wine. Literally all of it. So, somewhere along the way one develops preferences and keeps returning to those wines that really tug at the strings of one’s heart. For us, this meant wines like Chateau Musar Blanc, Fiorano’s Semillon bottling, Haut Brion Blanc, Kalin Cellars Semillon, The Willows, Tyrell’s and other such lovely things. The common denominator, of course, is Semillon. So, it’s only natural that that we’d want to make one too.
Nichon is 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. We are lucky enough to work with an old-vine parcel of Semillon from a vineyard down the road from our Rza Block (the heart of Sucette); the vines are 60-65 years of age, dry-grown, and own-rooted in the deep sand of the Vine Vale. The vineyard itself is feral; the owner prunes once and picks at harvest. Other than that, the vines are left to their own devices. We think that hard-won fruit is very special. That old Semillon in addition to a splash of bright young Sauvignon Blanc creates the perfect balance in our minds: the snappy SB helps to corset the velvety Semillon fruit.
They say the wine is made in the vineyard and we tend to agree, but you still have to crush the grapes and get the juice to ferment without screwing it up. For us this means a 12 hour basket press for the Semillon and Sauv Blanc, then straight to second-use French oak barrels to ferment in the cold room. Primary fermentation takes plus or minus 10 weeks to occur, and since we do not allow it to go through malolactic fermentation, it stays bright and yummy. After 10 months in barrel the wine is racked to tank for a few months and then bottled unfined and unfiltered. Be excited.
There used to be trellising, there used to be water management. Now there are only gnarled 60 year old bush vines left to their own devices, producing structured, aromatic Semillon.
Sand so deep and fine you sink right into it.