Cabernet Sauvignon, California, Napa, Red wine, Sonoma

Artesa Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Napa/Sonoma

Winemaker:Mark Beringer
Grape:88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, Syrah, Petite Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc
Region: 56% Napa County, 44% Sonoma County

See other wine from this producer:
Artesa Elements

This wine is quite interesting for at least three reasons:
First – does the name of the winemaker sounds familiar? Yes, Mark is the great, great grandson of an iconic Beringer Winery co-founder, Jacob Beringer. He is proud to continue the long family tradition as he was raised working with vines from the early age.

Second – I didn’t have the pleasure to visit Artesa Winery and its visitors center yet. But I have seen pictures and heard that this place was probably one of the most beautiful in Napa. It was designed by renowned Barcelona architect Domingo Triay and built in the early 1990’s.

Its owners, Roventos family of Spain, were expressing their heritage as well as their passion for art and nature. Their family’s winemaking history goes back to the mid-sixteenth century!
Gordon Huether, an artist with his studio in Napa, has previously created some beautiful pieces of sculptures and large scale glass-installations for Artesa. Eventually he became an artist in residence.

His expositions and a very personal artistic work are influencing significantly the overall impression of winery.

The name ARTESA was inspired by the Catalan word for “handcrafted.” And that’s how this winery was build – in perfect harmony with nature, with a breathtaking view of San Francisco skyline.
And third – this wine is not only blend of grapes (a traditional Bordeaux varieties) but also blend of regions – Marc decided here to pick the best fruits from Napa and Sonoma, and blend them together to add an extra complexity thanks to both region’s characteristics.

I have always tasted Artesa wines young – just released, so I was excited to try this bottle that have been aged for an additional few years. Does it hold its fruit? Artesa reds are being produced in more modern style – bigger, impressive and could be drank young. Sometimes, that’s not a recipe for long time in the cellar.

The grapes for this Cabernet Sauvignon came from the following Artesa’s vineyards: Foss Valley (Atlas Peak, Napa), Oak Knoll District (Napa), Ridgeline Vineyard (Alexander Valley, Sonoma) and Knights Valley (Sonoma). After harvesting the perfectly ripe grapes, the berries were kept whole, just de-stemmed. Yet, the grapes from different lots received a different treatment.

After fermentation, most of the lots were pressed directly to the barrel, where they finished a malolactic fermentation. Selected fruit from certain lots received an additional maceration to extract more color and density of flavors. Final blend then aged for 21 months in 40% new, 60% used oak barrels (85% French Oak, 15% American Oak).

Tasting notes:
Familiar and very nice aroma of dark fruit, with addition of spices from the oak. On the palate the wine was much softer than I remember when tasted  back in 2007.
Fruit was nice a bright – hints of blackberry, dark plum mixed with a delicate spices such as glove, cinnamon or nutmeg.Intense wine,with perfectly velvety tannins was a great compliment to a piece of steak I was having with it.Some wines, opened too early, have this sharpness about them (harsh tannins) that some admire, I not so much. It could be overpowering. Not just food, but sometimes the fruit it selves.
Artesa was nothing like that. I loved it, it held up to the expectations.

Also, since it’s not just Napa fruit, the price tag is slightly more friendlier. Therefore, I would call Artesa Napa/Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon a great value!

Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: under $ 25.00

Ideal food pairing:
Flank steak Fajitas, Beef Brisket with Roasted Grapes, Beef Bourguignon, Beef Chorizo, and many more…

Cabernet Sauvignon, California, Great wines under $10, Napa, Red wine

Grayson Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Winemaker: Larry Levin
Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
Region: California

There aren’t many family owned wineries in Napa, that would produce wines at this price point. And if there are some, are they also getting consistently “Best Buy” ratings from Wine Advocate? Grayson Cellars is owned by O’Connell family and their mission is to search for the finest fruit in California, and craft  wonderful wines in a very attractive price point.

I didn’t expect much when I first tasted this wine. I have tasted quite a few Cabernet Sauvignon wines, without an appellation,  from “California”, under $ 10.00. I didn’t find many that would impress me. I get it – quality fruit, the land, the equipment – all that became very expensive in California. So almost exclusively, the mass production companies could still keep the price in the reasonable range.

O’Connell family doesn’t fit this scenario. They buy fruit from all the great regions of California, but without that pricey overhead. Larry then hand-crafts high quality wines in his Napa facility, and all that personal attention pays off. His wines always over-deliver. You can buy Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir in the same price point from Grayson Cellars, and they are truly exceptional wines.

They also produce Zinfandel and Pinot Noir, but I didn’t have a chance to taste those yet. I enjoyed selling this wine. When you have value like this in your hand, it makes you proud. I usually took another, let’s say $ 24.00 bottle of Cabernet from the shelf, and tasted it with my customer side by side. Guess who won?

Tasting notes:
Dark ruby color and a lot of ripe plum and blackberries fruit aroma. Rich fruit in your mouth, full body red with notes of spice and soft tannins. Aged in French Oak, it shows a hints of toasted oak on the palate. Pleasant, long finish that you don’t expect from wine in this price range. Seriously, this wine is a steal!
Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: about $ 9.99

Ideal food pairing:
Barbeque,  anything from the grill,  Not so Greek Musaka, Lamb burgers with Relish Mayo, Flank Steak Fajitas, Beef Chorizo

Merlot, Napa, Red blends, Red wine

Newton Merlot Unfiltered 2005

Winemaker: Chris Millard
Grape: 83% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc
Region: Napa Valley, California

See other wines from this producer:
Newton Claret, Red Label

Robert Parker: 91 points

I always think of this outstanding Merlot, when somebody come up with that silly statement “I don’t drink Merlot,” followed by rolling their eyes. I wish I could pour them Newton and they will never, ever repeat that statement again.

Yes, I know, Merlot got a bad name lately, thanks to Paul Giamatti’s character Miles, who consistently trashed it down throughout the iconic wine movie Sideways. Who would ever think that one movie can change the wine industry for years to come!?

But the noble grape of Merlot is one of the most important elements in some of the best wines of the world. Merlot wines can be simple, good or outstanding. The best wines made from Merlot (for example in Bordeaux) are collectibles for its capacity to age for decades.

It is definitely not a simple wine when it comes to Newton Unfiltered Merlot. This wine is a special treat. To me, it is the best in Napa, especially at that price point. The credit for its uniqueness and success will forever belong to Dr. Su Hua Newton, who first set up the tone on Spring Mountain.

Before you taste this wine, you deserve to know the rich and incredible life story of this lady. I have a big admiration for her uncompromising style of work  and perfectionism. But it would take too much space to explain it here – if you are interested, please read my blog An unforgettable dinner with Dr. Su Hua Newton.

Dr. Su Hua Newton was a pioneer and one of the first Napa Valley winemakers to craft unfiltered and naturally fermented wines. Thanks to her almost fanaticism that started in the vineyard: the way she crafted each block separately, following nature and sustainable techniques, when she insisted on the harvest by hand, (perfectly mature bunches only), all the way to the winery – where just natural yeast was used to ferment the wine, to the bottling the wine unfiltered to preserve all its beauty.

Thanks to all those thousands of little details, Newton Vineyard has become one of the most inspiring and fascinating wine estates in the world. Although Dr. Su is now just overseeing the operations, her spirit is still there in every step of the way. And the character of that approach can be felt, when you open any bottle of Newton Red Label wines (Chardonnay, Claret and Cabernet Sauvignon) or the Unfiltered series – Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Puzzle.

The typical pine tree, pictured on every Newton wine label, stands proudly on top of the Spring Mountain, overseeing some of the steepest and most difficult terrains in Napa. The terroire is one part of Newton wine’s success.

The other part is (and I don’t want this to sound like a cliché , but it’s truth) super hard work and respect to the nature. The adrenalin, when everybody else in Napa has already fermented their harvest, and in Newton they are still waiting for the natural yeast to kick in. Is it crazy? Maybe. Brave? Most definitely. Brilliant? For sure!

“All of these wines from their beautiful mountain vineyard are among the most natural made in the world.” said Robert Parker Jr., in his book World’s Great Wine Estates

Tasting notes:
Dark ruby color and beautiful aroma of ripe blackberries, blueberries and herbs. On the palate this wine is robust yet velvety, with hints of raspberries, black cherry and plum. It leaves a trace of cocoa powder or bitter dark chocolate on your tongue.

Oak notes and tannins are delicate and will devolve even more over the time. Although the wine is silky and perfectly approachable right now, it will continue to develop for another 5-10 years, I believe.

This is one of the kind wine, complex, balanced and perfectly crafted. Highest quality, Bordeaux style wine that wouldn’t disappoint the most demanding wine enthusiast.

Dry – Off dry- Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: about $ 50.00

Ideal food pairing:
Beef BourguignonFlank steak with shitakee sauce, Venison, any grilled meet, Filet Mignon with a crushed black pepper sauce and many more… the chef of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse once paired this wine with a rich chocolate cake. It was insanely great! It turned the wine into liquid velvet… you might want to try it for yourself!

Napa, Red blends, Red wine

Newton Claret 2006

Winemaker: Chris Millard
Grape: 43% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot and 3% Syrah
Region: Napa Valley

See other wines from this winery:
Newton Unfiltered Merlot 2005

This winery is very dear to me. Probably because of the approach dr. Su Hua Newton took when creating some of the most recognized wines in Napa. She insisted on the most natural way of crafting her wines – which resulted in the first unfiltered wines in Napa Valley, coming from Newton winery. Peter Newton first created, and than successfully sold another famous brand in Napa, called Sterling vineyards.

When he and his wife Su Hua Newton purchased this unique piece of property in Napa Valley, Mountain Spring, they both marked it with their personalities. Peter’s passion for Victorian gardens, and Su Hua’s Chinese heritage and passion for perfection and. Please read more about Doc. Sue Hua Newton in my blog.

Claret is a part of their Red label line of wines and it’s a proprietary Bordeaux blend. The proportion of each varieties in blend changes every vintage, based on the particular year and taste profile of each grape. The harvest is done by hand, only ripen grapes are picked – which means several passes through the vineyard in a period of 2-3 weeks. Newton only uses natural yeast and the final blend matured in French oak barrels.

Tasting notes:
Take your time and decant this wine. It has a dark ruby red color and beautiful aroma of black cherries, black currant and spice. On the palate it’s a mild, almost creamy structure of blackberries, even dry plum and soft spice. Tannins are velvety and acidity is balanced perfectly with the blend. The longer you decant it, the more structure and layers of flavors you will get. Very serious wine that is a super value around $20.00 retail!

Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: around $ 20.00

Ideal food pairing:
Lamb burgers, Beef Bourguignon, Beef Chorizo , Flank steak with shitakee sauce, medium aged cheeses and much more

California, Napa, Red blends, Red wine, Sonoma

Artesa Elements 2005

Winemaker: Mark Beringer
Grape: 39% Tempranillo, 18% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Franc, 7% Garnacha, 1% Graciano
Region: 65% Sonoma county, 35% Napa, California

See other wines from this producers:
Artesa Cabernet Sauvignon Napa/Sonoma

I have never been in Artesa winery, but I was told by a trusted friend that it is one of the most beautiful wine estates in California, combined with a modern technology. If you visit their tasting room, please let me know how you liked it. The large portfolio of their wines are definitely worth to check out.

Imagine to combine a most typical grape varietals of the three major Old world’s wine regions – Bordeaux, Rhône and Rioja and put them in one bottle. That’s Elements. A very unique blend, isn’t it? I am not sure, but it might be the only blend of such a grape combination on the market.

Artesa’s winemaker, Mark experienced with all these varietals while working at Duckhorn Vineyards. When Duckhorn expended their wine production beyond Bordeaux grape varietals, Mark was leading their new wine project to launch Paraduxx, (an unique blend of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon). Paraduxx became an instant hit and was later followed by Goldeneye, the winery’s Burgundy style wines from Anderson Valley.

The San Francisco Chronicle named Mark Winemaker of the Year for his work at Duckhorn Vineyards.

The grapes for Elements were sourced from Artesa’s Alexander Valley mountain-side vineyard, Carneros estate Tempranillo and a Carneros Syrah and Tempranillo vineyard. This cool climate area produces wine with spice and leather characteristics. The Alexander Valley vineyard is a warmer region that participated with an aromatic and expressive fruit.

Each lot was hand harvested, de-stemmed and gently split open. Extended maceration of fruit followed the fermentation in open tanks, to extract a richer a deeper structure of different varietals for the final blend. Most of the varietals were pressed directly to the oak barrels. Malolactic fermentation took a place in French oak barrels (about 30% new oak) and wine then aged for 22 months.

Tasting notes:
Dark ruby color and lovely aroma of blackberry, raspberry and spices on the nose. On the palate it’s a rich, yet velvety red with a layers of different flavors, ripen dark fruit, plums, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate. This wine is developing richer and richer flavors as it opens up. Soft tannins are promising a good aging potential. Generously long finish that makes you reach for a second glass.

Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: around $ 20.00

Ideal food pairing:
Steaks, lamb, dark meats, artisan cheeses, Beef chorizo, Pistachio crusted rack of lamb, spiced sausages, ribs etc.