Napa Valley Vintners Association teamed up with The Daily Sip and the Sip’s editor-in-chief Karen MacNeil for a virtual wine tasting event which featured a sextet of “Unexpected Napa Wines.” What, exactly, are unexpected Napa wines? @TheDailySip tweeted the answer during the event. “We looked for classic estates making unexpected wines,” they chirped. “The #Napa Valley is a hotbed of American innovation,” they continued. “Traditions thrive and evolve while winemakers explore the new.”
The six wines tasted ranged from a mildly unexpected unoaked Chardonnay to quite unexpected California Albarino, Chenin Blanc and Petit Verdot to Fumé Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon - which I would say are far from unexpected in Napa Valley.
The #SipWithKaren wines:
Alpha Omega 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay
Artesa 2014 Albarino.
Cornerstone Cellars 2013 Chenin Blanc
Robert Mondavi Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Robert Mondavi Winery 2013 Fume Blanc
St. Supery 2010 Dollarhide Petit Verdot
I was invited to join this little party and was provided samples of the wines for that purpose. I am covering them separately here.
This unexpected wine is made from 100% Carneros Albariño grapes from the Artesa estate vineyard. Alcohol hits a moderate 13.9% abv in this refresher, fermented and aged in stainless steel (85%)
and new french oak barrels (15%) for five months.
The Artesa website talks terroir. "With its cool climate, Carneros is the perfect region for planting Spain’s most famous white grape – Albariño. This variety loves cool weather and ripens late without reaching high alcohol levels. For this reason we planted the now 20-year old vines in one of the coolest spots on our estate vineyard." Winemaker Ana Diogo-Draper utilized whole cluster pressing, which adds an herbal dimension that I love to find, particularly in a white wine.
@TheDailySip noted that "While only 19 acres of #albariño are planted in #Napa, @Artesa’s vineyard is 20 years old." @sonadora is "Always surprised to see an Albarino from CA, especially from Napa!" @dvinewinetime commented that it is a "glass full of spun gold. Sweet banana & pineapple notes on the nose." Agreed. @KMacWine found "a distinctiveness to the fruit that makes Artesa #albariño distinctively #Napa, not #RiasBaixas. It’s ripe and long," she tweeted. @beerrabble liked the "perfume on the nose to start, slate on the mid palate-little tangy. nice on a warm night."
More tasting notes came from @SLHousman: "This Napa Artesa Albariño refreshing w/flavors of white peaches, lemons w/hints of bananas in the finish." @Hawk_Wakawaka loves "finding the unusual whites that do well in Napa. Albarino there was one of 1st new world spots for the variety." @DrinkWhatULike was whipped into a frenzy: "Whoa, holy peach/honeysuckle aromatics. Vibrant. Expressive. Lovely citrus acidity. Digging this." @Shona425 loved it, too. "Clean and crisp, not tart. A great option for a summer white."
This wine has more tropical fruit than Carmen Miranda's hat. Pineapples and bananas are sticking out in front, citrus and peaches on the sides and flowers all around. And those are just the smells. Take a swig of this chilled Albariño and let your fruit flag fly. But there is a nice hatband of minerality and a gentle lemon-lime note joined by a brimful of acidity. You'll want something like this anytime you find yourself under a Panama hat.
Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter