I have been looking forward to this event since it was announced! I missed out on Arterra’s last Malbec and I’ve loved every red they have released to date.
The whites release in the Spring brought forward the Chenin Blanc and Roussanne and the best Rose ever :). Speaking of which, husband, wine friend 1, wine friend 2 and I started with that bottle prior to the release event!
This rose of malbec and petit verdot is shockingly crisp and refreshing, just a smooth sensation going down – whatever the temp – today was cooler and cloudy and yet, this wine was perfect. Both grapes give it rich color for a rose and quite a depth of taste. Even husband, who doesn’t really like wine (a story for another time) liked it.
Then we were invited downstairs for the main event.
This is the kind of tasting event I adore, where much of the time is spent on education. The winemaker spent about 25 minutes just talking to us about his winemaking process, specifically what made this vintage different from any previous vintage. The story is fascinating – he spoke about how for the first years he was trying to yield enough fruit to make good wine, and how for this growing year (2016) he was able to take some risk of loss and let the fruit ripen until it reached exactly where he wanted it to be. While the yield was low due to losses sustained through some harsh winters and wet summer, he felt he got the grapes to exactly the right place and then picked them. By letting them ripen to perfection, he felt that they concentrated the characteristics of the grapes that he wanted to bring out and made them richer and smoother. We’ll talk about just how well he achieved that shortly. The other big change was adding insulation to the maceration tank during fermentation, allowing the yeast to do its work and die off naturally as the fruit inside changed in alcohol content, temperature and acidity. He basically lets nature take its course and produce the best wine it can. I wanted to ask more about how he “checks in” on the wine along the way, as he shared that many modern wineries don’t do this but strictly control the temp in order to ensure nothing unexpected happens – I am certain he has some quality control process where he is monitoring this all, otherwise how could the wine be so good at the end?
So after all of the education, we got to the six glasses before us. The one in the center was the 2015 Reserve blend – not a new release, but rather a type of baseline – to see what the style for the previous release was and where he was going in this next stage. From left to right we had the 2016 Cab Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Tannat, and 2017 Late Harvest Tannat.
The cab franc started us off – the smoothest cab franc ever. One friend told me that she doesn’t do the single varietal cab franc because it really should be used for blending. In general I agree, but this one drank nice and smooth and simple. Pleasant and balanced, with no dry tongue or acid taste at the end – not very tannic, but as pleasant as the peppery smell from the glass. A nice one!
The malbec. This was the one for which I had been waiting – and it was well worth the wait! Swirling in the glass at first for the incredible scents coming up – again with a dark earthy and peppery scent that drew me right in. First sip – so incredibly smooth. I’m not used to malbec quite like this. While I’ve always liked malbec, I always found a certain harshness to it – I don’t know if it is the tannins or what that felt harsh, but this one just flowed across the tongue smoothly. Balanced is a word I hear a lot with wine, and it fits this one perfectly. The menu states that it has a “silky velvet texture” and those are perfect words. I looked at husband and just said “there’s one case today.”
The Petit Verdot… this grape seems to be THE up and coming VA grape. I’ve had several between Loudoun and Fauquier wineries. They seem to get better every vintage. It’s deep and dark and complex for sure. I think it’s incredibly strong, and was probably my #2 wine from the day.
The Tannat – the winemaker loves this grape and it is truly a complex grape with tons of dark flavors in it. What I enjoyed about this year’s Tannat is that it didn’t leave me with a dry tongue when it was done. I’m sure there is something scientific about tannin or acids or something that describes that, but I don’t enjoy wines that leave me thirsty at the end, and tannat usually does. This one did not.
Finally, the late harvest tannat. This is a port style, because the grapes ripened longer on the vine and there is more residual sugar so it’s got a dessert quality to it. It definitely feels almost like port when you drink it, and it’s got higher alcohol content than the other wines. It’s a nice finish, and it’s a good one to share with friends given the sweetness.
I came home with two cases plus two bottles of wine for myself. My goal is to cellar a few bottles of malbec and petit verdot for a bit so that I can see how they will develop in the coming years, I expect they will be incredible. His future releases sound really great too – he was talking about two blends for next fall that will be bottled and ready to go, so I’m hopeful that they will continue this incredible trend. This is a great vintage for Arterra, and keeps this winery at the very top of my list.