We are all born with peculiar gifts, those little tics and quirks that make us who we are in that oh so special way. One of mine is being able to notice when an object in a room is not plumb, level, or square to other things nearby or the room itself. I could find myself standing in the middle of the most beautifully appointed room, the décor an aesthete’s dream, and my eye would latch immediately onto that one picture frame or lamp shade or rug, you name it, that was just a tiny bit off. Oh, I’d see the impressive room, sure. But I would really see the thing that needed fixing. It’s more of a curse than a blessing, and might be the only thing about me that is remotely obsessive or compulsive.
At least that’s what I used to think. In the past few years I’ve begun to realize that this way of seeing things has leaked over into my wine tasting. Maybe it was always there and I’m just starting to notice it. Some people say that when they taste they think of colors or sounds. When I taste, more and more, I think of shapes. Things come at me as blocks or lines or circles, odd bits and pieces with odd angles and curves. And when those shapes are even slightly askew or out of joint, I can’t help but notice. Hey, don’t ask me. I have no clue how or why it happens either.
2013 Artesa Estate Reserve Chardonnay
Napa Valley Carneros
Given the cool, often foggy nooks and crannies of the Carneros AVA, it’s no surprise that this delicious chardonnay boasts such clean, crisp precision. A brilliant lemon gold in the glass, the wine offers complex aromas that include lemon cream, tropical fruit, ripe golden apples, and the slightest hint of oak. The palate enjoys a similar array of delights, with a mouth feel that is soft and a body that exhibits impressive concentration. The finish is long with notes of earth and wet stones. The 14.4% abv is present but well-behaved. This is a balanced wine with notable depth of flavor and character.
This is a versatile wine that would pair well with a variety of poultry and fish dishes. An indulgent quaff on its own.
But here’s why I mentioned the tasting shapes above. For all those elements in its favor, the wine came to me in segments. Not in a clumsy way but like a little wooden choo-choo train, one block-shaped car at a time. Here’s the fruit. Here’s the body. Here’s the flavor. And so on. Individual characteristics like alcohol or oak or acid were well-integrated into the wine in just the right spots, but the wine itself did not strike me as completely coherent as a whole. Quibbling? Nitpicking? Perhaps. Once again I spotted, or at least imagined that I saw, that tiny frame across the room hanging just a degree off-center. It’s a beautiful room, for sure, but in the end there is something just a teensy bit off.
If the wine did not carry a suggested retail price of $40, I might not mention all this, but when the cost to the consumer is notable, the wine needs to play at or above that level. So close, but just a whisker off from where it should be.
100% chardonnay, sourced from Artesa’s 150 acres of sustainably grown vineyards.
1460 cases produced; 14.4% abv
**sample from winery
2013 Artesa Estate Reserve Napa Valley Pinot Noir
Napa Valley Carneros
This pinot noir was seamless compared to the chardonnay. A dusty garnet in the glass, with inviting aromas of black cherry, coca cola, damp earth, spices, and a hint of flowers and white pepper. Sleek and vibrant in the mouth, with refreshing acid, notable balance, and a savory and lingering finish.
There was enough heft on this to pull me slightly more towards Russian River, even though I knew it came from Carneros. Still, its depth and concentration sets it up nicely to pair with most conventional proteins, including wild salmon or trout. Like the chardonnay, there’s nothing about this wine that will make you regret drinking it on its own.
I would suggest planning on this bottle being a one-night wonder. Despite its structure and pleasing complexity, the bloom was off the rose on day two. Still delicious and bright, it was not nearly as nimble as when it first poked its head out of the bottle. Some wines open a bit on the clumsy or reluctant side and really need another day to get their act together. Others shine from the opening bell but don’t have as much staying power as they seem to promise. This delightful pinot noir is the latter. Take advantage of what it so generously offers.
100% pinot noir, sourced from Artesa’s 150 acres of sustainably grown vineyards
N/A cases produced; 14.5% abv
**sample from winery