Early Mountain Vineyards has been getting serious press recently. From being named the 2016 #1 tasting room in America to having a wine on James Suckling’s 100 Best in the US list, (#93) they appear unable to do wrong.
And the same with the visit today – incredible.
As you approach the property, you see it is large in scale. For a six year old winery, they have a massive presence.
You approach the tasting bar (and at 11:20 a.m., there were already a handful of folks there), and are greeted and set up with your choice of a six-wine tasting or nine-wine tasting. Of course we went for nine wines, and as a result, you get a little gift glass to keep when you leave.
This is their sixth year in operation as Early Mountain, bought by Jean Case (her husband Steve owned a little company named AOL, but she is making this wine thing go on her own!). They’ve heavily planted the property with a number of varietals:
And as a result, they have a pretty substantial selection of wines. They have done a great job with this place, and as a result, their wines sell out fast, and two of the reds on the menu are 2017s that have only a few months in the bottle. They are still good, although they show their youth and undoubtedly will mature nicely.
So on to my thoughts on the tasting!
It all begins with the 2017 Rose. This is my favorite way to do rose, with the juice left on the skins (according to the pourer) for only a few hours. This was primarily Merlot with some Syrah and a little Malbec and Cab Franc. It was a very dry and fruity wine, pleasant and acidic as you sipped it. This is a good summer rose.
The 2017 Pinot Gris was our next pour. This had a splash of Chardonnay mixed in too. It was super crisp and dry and the pear flavors really came through. I really loved this wine – I have a feeling there will be a lot of it around my world next summer.
Third taste – the Five Forks 2017 white blend. This has Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng, Pinot Gris, Viognier, and 2% Malvasia Bianca. According to our pourer, the Malvasia Bianca gave it that floral note (which came through on the nose, clearly). I thought this was a great blend – dad was less crazy about it than I was, but it was really a nice white blend – again, probably for summer, and would pair beautifully with fish. There were really nice tropical flavors in it, and that minerality at the end was really pleasant.
The 2017 Chardonnay was our fourth taste. This was a very strong chardonnay, very strong pear and acidity, but nothing at all that dominated it. There was no hint of butter or oakiness, even though it had been aged in French Oak. As Chardonnay goes, this was really a good one.
Switching to reds, we started with the 2017 “Foothills” blend. This was mostly merlot and cab franc, with some syrah, cab sauv, and petit verdot blended in. Oddly enough, it was 4% Petit Manseng, and I questioned the pourer about that. She shared that the winemaker did that, and in 2016 had a little bit more in it to add something special into the flavors. I did like this one – it was a light and smooth blend, but it was definitely young – it was aged in barrels for 10 months, and probably had been in bottle for at most 5-6 months. They sold through the previous blend, which did well in the Governor’s Cup, and so this came out a little early, and was just added to the menu. I got the lighter raspberry and red cherry flavors in this one.
Next up was the 2017 Madison County Cab Franc. Again a young one, because they sold out of the 2016 vintage. Despite its light youthful characteristics, this one will likely age well and add some depth as it goes. I got the black fruit and silky characteristics the tasting notes mention. We actually got dad a bottle of this to take home. Hopefully he will keep it for a while and let it develop in the bottle!
Our next red blend was the 2015 Novum, which was amazing. This is heavily merlot and cab franc, and then 20% tannat and 3% petit verdot. Those two are big grapes, and I usually expect them to overwhelm a blend. In this blend, they get softened by the merlot and I’m certain by some part of the winemaker’s process. I got some of the blackberry and fennel, as well as the cola and cedar the tasting notes mentioned. It was very dry at the end, which is the telltale sign of tannat and petit verdot. What a strong, solid wine.
The 2014 Etlan red blend is more classic, with 57% merlot, 35% Cab Sauv and 8% Cab Franc. I found the fruit flavors muted in this wine. Instead, I got the spicy ending full throttle on this one. This was a nice sip, but my least favorite of the wines on the tasting bar.
The coup de grace came at the end – the 2015 Rise. This is their superstar flagship wine.
It’s a blend of 57% merlot and then almost equal parts cab franc, petit verdot, and tannat. The pourer said if we wanted to buy a bottle we should decant it for 3-4 hours prior to serving to let it open up. The smell was amazing – woodsy and deep, with dark fruits in it. I absolutely loved just swirling and smelling this wine. Tasting it was great too. They did an amazing job with this blend, and I’m certain it will be an award winner.
The whole experience was wonderful, and the bar was an engaging space. The tasting room was starting to fill up, and we wanted to have lunch so we cashed out and went to the seating area where we sat down to order soup and sandwich – I got the tomato basil soup and grilled cheese – and these were stunning. Dad got the same soup and a flatbread with prosciutto and goat cheese. We also had a glass of the Novum with our lunches. The eating space filled up quickly, and groups were purchasing flights of wine instead of doing tastings. The space has gorgeous huge windows that overlook vineyards and mountains, and had it not been raining, the views would have been incredible. As it was, the fog rolling in over the mountain was pretty to look at.
I think this is a simply amazing winery and tasting experience. I’m sure they get very busy in better weather, and with their continued good press, they will continue to grow their following.
Thanks Early Mountain for a great afternoon, and I look forward to coming back for more!