Gleanin’ on the vine
Notes, quotes and anecdotes from recent encounters of the vinous kind:
• At the Premiere Napa barrel tasting, a grower told me that he is getting $7,000 a ton for his malbec, and could sell twice as much as he grows. The general formula with this is to lop off the last two zeroes and you have the bottle price. But no one is going to try to sell Napa malbec for $70, so this is for blending into cabs or Bordeaux bottlings. I mentioned this to Duxoup vintner Andy Cutter (at left, with wife/co-vintner Deb) the other night, and he said “Blenders are the game. That’s how we started using sangiovese and dolcetto, as a blender. Now we blend cabernet into our sangiovese.”
• I recently bought some Aratas Hayne Vineyard Petite Sirah from a merchant in Healdsburg who usually includes tasting notes from sundry publications. He mentioned that the Wine Spectator refused to sample the wine because fewer than 100 cases were produced. So I’m calling on the Wine Spectator to cease and desist from reviewing French wines with the endnote of “12 [or 25 or 50 or 99] cases imported.”
• I had a wonderful lunch recently with Ted Diamantis, the force behind Diamond Importers, purveyors of fabulous Greek wines. Some stuff I learned from him: Greece has 7,300 indigenous grapes. … More than 80 percent of the population lived in villages through World War II, so bottled wine was foreign to them. … Artisan production started in the 1980s (given what I tasted there on a couple of late-’70s visits, this is easy to believe). … Negroamaro, among other grapes associated with Italy, is actually Greco-Roman … Climate change has brought a little more rain to this normally arid country, even in June, which Diamantis said prolongs phenolic ripeness and means less burned-fruit flavors in the wines.
We have 50 acres of Malbec planted on Mount Veeder, of about 300 planted in Napa, and yes Matilda, one of the most popular wines in our tasting room is a $50 Hess Small Block Series Malbec (see it here: http://shop.hesscollection.com/product/2011-Small-Block-Malbec ) It sells out as fast as we offer it and, encouraged by that, we’re getting a new reserve level Malbec ready to go and it should tip the scales at around $75. We are increasing the Malbec content in our Hess Collection 19 Block Mountain Cuvee, and this blend will likely become Malbec dominant (currently Cabernet). All of which is to say that Napa Malbec is definitely something to keep your eye on, because it’s found a welcome home here.
Very cool, Jim. I hadn’t thought about the possibility of bottling it as a varietal for a tasting room or club only.