Today’s post is brought to you by the letters W, O and W and the number 7. All I can say is WOW. Arterra released SEVEN 2017 red wines to the club at the beginning of September 2019. Five are single varietal wines and two are vineyard-specific blends. I can say I bought at least two of each bottle, and will definitely be going back to buy more.
As he often does for these releases, Jason set up a nice layout in the barrel room/cellar, and he emphasized that the space was meant to be functional and had been made pretty for the weekend release events but would revert back to working space Monday due to the harvest. There was evidence of all the work going on with the plastic lugs near the stairs.
We sat down to four glasses with tastes poured and a descriptive sheet, sharing the location from which the grapes came. Arterra uses two vineyards – the Estate vineyard in Delaplane and the Seven Oaks vineyard in Philomont.
Jason started the discussion with notes about the 2017 harvest season – that it was an unpredictable year in a good way, with everyone wondering which way the weather would go – a cooler August led into a warmer September that led into a hot and humid October that felt a lot more like August in Virginia. So unlike typical years wondering when the harvest team should rush out and pick before cold and rain destroyed the grapes on the vine, the issue was around “sorting choices” after picking to ensure quality grapes without any signs of over-ripening or rot came into fermentation. The weather gave them very ripe fruit with which to work, which in turn led to better quality wines. Each varietal and the two blends were bottled between December 2018 and February 2019, so they’d had at least 7 months of rest in the bottle to settle and begin to develop.
The first wine was the Cabernet Franc. Always a fan favorite, this cab franc carried all of the qualities that we adore in cab franc from Arterra – it was balanced with nice fruit and some juiciness, easy to drink and likely pairing well with any food. This cab franc will likely grow and develop over time too, just enhancing the flavor notes within it. This was all from the Seven Oaks site in Philomont, and it really was a very nice example of the Virginia cab franc. I expect that it will continue to develop and look forward to comparing this one to the 16 and the other cab francs I have waiting!
Glass two was the first release of the 2017 Petite Sirah! I got to taste this in the barrel some time ago, and I thought it was exciting then. I smelled the incredible dark fruit smell, and I’d say what I got in both smell and taste was blackberry – and a ton of it. This wine has developed into a gorgeous wine. According to Jason, the vines have been thriving with lots of fruit production early on, and now is balanced in its growth, with a strong canopy that is helping to concentrate flavor in tight clusters of grapes. Jason expressed a ton of excitement about the vines as they continue to develop and thinks what will be the 2019 harvest is going to be incredible – he is very optimistic about the 2018 grapes too, as they were still able to concentrate flavors well despite the wet conditions. Jason said he wasn’t aware of anyone else in Virginia growing petite sirah, so this first for Arterra and maybe Virginia was quite an amazing debut!
Let’s have a moment of silence for the 2017 Malbec. This will be the last malbec from them for a while. While the 2018 malbec spritz is out, all the vines died in the winter of 2018, so a replanting will occur in 2020 or 2021 with the first harvest to follow three years later. So this final malbec is quite gorgeous. It feels early when I compare it to the 2016, but then I drank a bottle of that not too long ago, so it has had longer to develop. I predict this will continue to develop and will definitely put some in my basement to hopefully age and develop (come on willpower)!
The last glass of flight one was the 2017 Petit Verdot. I had enjoyed a glass of the 2016 PV prior to the release event with my lunch, so I was eager to compare them. With the bolder characteristics of 2017 wines brought by the weather, I was hopeful to see that reflect, but Jason patiently answered my question about that and reminded me that this would need another year in the bottle to share the bold flavors I enjoyed in the PV upstairs. So for now, this is a lighter version of PV that even Wine Friend 1 liked.
We had an intermission to get ready for flight two. Flight two included the 2017 tannat, always one of Jason’s strongest wines. This grape packs so much punch in flavor and depth, and this vintage did not disappoint. Jason was happiest with this one, which was a blend from both sites, with most of the wine coming from the estate plantings. He shared that he thinks this is the best tannat he has made. I always find young tannat to be a little bit rough around the edges and want it to have time in the bottle. This had nice flavors, but I do think as it rests, it will develop and smooth out, and turn into an absolutely gorgeous dark red wine. I cannot wait to compare it with the 2016 tannat from Arterra, and the other tannats I’ve been saving for a taste-off!
The first new blend we tasted was the 2017 Seven Oaks Blend. All of these grapes were grown in Philomont, in the Loudoun Valley. This wine was 50% Tannat, 30% Petit Verdot, and 20% Malbec. I adored this blend – it did have the sharper characteristics of Tannat and Petit Verdot, but it was smoothed by the malbec, which I think lightened it. One attendee asked Jason why he didn’t add cab franc, and Jason shared that those grapes would lighten this wine, and he wanted to create a rich blend.
The second blend was the Crooked Run blend, named for the stream that passes around the property. The bottle itself is simply gorgeous, designed by co-owner Sandy Murray.
This blend is all from Estate grapes, as the name suggests. For a flagship blend, this one will serve them well. Again, the blend is 50% tannat, now 37.5% petit verdot, and 12.5% petite sirah. The Sirah lifts this one substantially away from the astringent characteristics inherent to tannat and petit verdot, and softens it. Wine Friend 1 preferred this blend, and I have to say, I found it to be the winner, but that may be the glow of the newfound love of petite sirah.
Jason shared that he has decided to move away from Bordeaux Style blends in order to focus on vineyard blends – what grows well together should blend well together. Judging by this release, this is a wise move, and will serve the winery well moving forward.
Wine Friend 1 and I made some big purchases today, as these releases are exceptional. For me, winner in show were Petite Sirah and Crooked Run. For her, Cab Franc, Malbec, and Crooked Run won the day. I am very sad to say that the Malbec has limited allocation given the situation with vines dying, and only producing 25 cases of the single varietal – but some had to go into the blend, and some went into that amazing 2017 rosé of malbec and petit verdot.
As always, Jason does a great job with education during these events, highlighting the differences in soil between the two sites and how that may impact the wine (Greenstone versus granite gneiss). We also discussed future plans for replanting vines damaged by weather – the malbec and tannat at the Seven Oaks site mostly – with vines that are hardier to survive the winters.
I highly recommend making your way to Arterra soon to check these wines out – I expect the malbec will gone soon, and the petite sirah and the blends will both be fan favorites that will move quickly.