If you love northern California wine country then you must love Carneros. It is perfectly situated as the gateway to both Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. Due to the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean climate, the unique soils that collaborate from the Pacific Ocean, coastal mountains, and the San Francisco Bay, and it long growing season, Carneros AVA is poised to produce some of the world’s highest quality Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Considering all of this, if you are a winery known as the Jewel of Carneros, you must be crafting some beautiful wines! That is exactly what is transpiring at Artesa Winery.
Artesa has been crafting high quality Carneros wines since the early 1990’s. However, its roots date back many centuries through the Codorníu Raventós legendary wine making family of Spain. The family originally opened what is now known as Artesa in the early 1980’s as a sparkling wine house. However, it did not take long for them to realize Carneros was a perfect location to produce Chardonnay and Pinot Noir still wines as well as bubbles. The name “Artesa” is Catalan, meaning “handcrafted.” Even though Artesa is owned by Spain’s most famous wine making family, Artesa crafts artisan wines made with care and precision.
Our objective is to make Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that unmistakably bear the stamp of Carneros.
It is not every day that I am sent wine samples to compare side by side an appellation wine and an estate reserve from the same vintage. As a wine geek this was a thrill. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed learning and writing about it. I am also sharing the winemaker’s notes for each wine so you can see the process, and at times subtleties that go into crafting wines.
Artesa Carneros Chardonnay 2013: 100% Chardonnay from grapes cultivated in the Carneros AVA; poured a straw yellow into the glass; pronounced citrus notes, yellow apples, white peaches, and soft notes of nutmeg; soft and elegant on the palate, round acidity with a spicy finish;14.3 ABV, $23
Winemaker’s notes: hand harvested, whole-cluster pressing with the majority of the grapes (a technique which bypasses crushing) using a slow “champagne” cycle that gently pushes the must rendering clean juice but few solids; 70% of the juice was fermented in French oak barrels (30% new, the remainder was fermented in seasoned barrels); the lees were stirred twice a week for five months, bringing added texture and richness to the mouthfeel. 30% of the juice was fermented in stainless steel, temperature controlled tanks, at a cooler temperature (45 – 50 F); This technique allows for the retention of highly volatile aroma compounds. This combination of oak and tank fermentation imparted richness and viscosity to the wine, without overwhelming it; 50% of the wine to undergo malolactic fermentation, rounding out the edges with a hint of butter that never goes over the top. The wine was bottled after nine months of aging.
Artesa Estate Reserve Carneros 2013 Chardonnay: 100% Chardonnay from Artesa estate vineyards; poured a straw yellow in the glass; aromas of orchard, stone fruit and lemon chiffon pie, are met with golden honey and nutmeg; rich and textural on the palate, really well-crafted Chardonnay, a touch of creamy texture yet beautifully balanced with round acidity, nice mouth-coating finish; 14.2% ABV; $50.
Winemaker’s notes: hand harvested grapes; whole cluster pressed using a slow “champagne” cycle that gently pushes the must rendering clean juice but few solids; Winemaker Mark Beringer placed 100% of the juice into French oak barrels (100% new) specifically coopered for Artesa Chardonnay. After primary fermentation the majority of the wine went through malolactic fermentation and then aged on its lees for a full year, with twice weekly lees stirring. The wines were tasted weekly by Beringer and his team and racked once prior to bottling. Our Block 92 Chardonnay is 100% grown, produced and bottled by Artesa.
Artesa Carneros Pinot Noir 2013: 100% Pinot Noir from Carneros AVA; delicate ruby in the glass; bright aromas of red cherries, strawberries and cranberries with soft notes of violets, palate a bit more concentrated than aromas indicate with added black berries and black tea leaves, well-structured and balanced with round acidity and delicate tannins make this a lovely pinot; 14.3% ABV; $28.
Winemaker’s notes: hand-picked over a period of several weeks, as each block achieved ripeness and flavor development; Winemaker Ana Diogo-Draper de-stemmed, but did not crush the grapes, placing them in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The fermentation tanks were chilled for a three-day “cold soak” – designed to extract color and flavor from the grape must. The tanks were then warmed so that fermentation could begin. Tasting each tank daily, the team pressed the wine off its skins when the proper flavor and tannin structure was achieved. The wine was placed in French oak barrels (30% new) for nine months prior to bottling.
Artesa Estate Reserve Carneros 2013 Pinot Noir: 100% Pinot Noir from Artesa estate vineyard; very delicate garnet in the glass; vibrant aromas of red cherries, raspberries and strawberries are met with dried rose petals and a touch of spice and cola; the palate is lively with nice spice notes and a hint of mushrooms to round out the aromas, really nice pinot with layers of flavors and textures that continue to evolve; round acidity and dusty tannins create a mouth-coating, long finish; 14.5% ABV; $40.
Winemaker’s notes: After hand-harvesting in the early morning to preserve freshness and fruit integrity, the grapes were delivered to the winery where they were de-stemmed but not crushed. Winemaker Mark Beringer cold soaked the berries in stainless steel tanks for four days – a method which gently extracts color and flavor without harsh tannins. Following a 14-day fermentation using native and other yeasts, the wine was placed in French oak barrels (50% new) for 10-months, then racked once prior to bottling. Our Estate Reserve Pinot Noir is 100% grown, produced and bottled by Artesa.
Artesa’s wine making philosophy is simple: the best way to make great wine is with great grapes. Winemaker Ana Diogo-Draper is passionate about capturing the essence of place, “the taste of the vineyard,” in each glass of her wine. Artesa employees both modern and traditional techniques, crafting minimal intervention wines from harvest to bottle. Furthermore, their philosophy is one of stewardship, based on the “responsible management of land for future generations.” Artesa’s winery is state-of-the-art. It is built into a hillside, allowing it natural cooling from the earth’s temperature regulations. Artesa estate vineyards are Napa Green Land Certified by the Napa Valley Vintners Association. They utilize sustainable farming practices to protect the biodiversity of the ecosystem and all grapes are harvested by hand.
Farming in harmony with nature results in wines that reflect the true expressions of their terroir and variety.
Artesa is open daily for tastings and tours. In addition to standard tastings they offer some fun tastings with reservations including: Wine & Cheese Pairings, Chocolate Indulgence, and sharing its Spanish heritage with Tapas and Wine Pairings and Pintxos and Wine Pairings. Furthermore, Artesa would love to host your next private event. Be sure to visit the web site of Artesa to learn more about the winery, view their entire portfolio of wines, and order these (and more) for yourself.
My Song Selection: All four of these wines were silky smooth and very well crafted. Though the estate reserves were more complex the appellation wines were very good and all four wines are reasonably priced.
Get your own bottles of Artesa Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!