Monday, August 19, 2013

Artesa Vineyards and Winery – Napa, California

Artesa Vineyards and Winery is a 150-acre estate located in the back roads and set on a hill top in the Carneros AVA, a region known for its ideal terroir for cool climate grapes such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. 
After following the long driveway winding up the hill you ascend two flights of stairs. As you approach the tasting room you are greeted by water jetting from modern fountains from which you can look out over the valley below and the breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay and its own estate vineyards.

The winery was founded by the Codorníu Group, the Raventós family, of the Penedès region of Spain, west of Barcelona.  They are the oldest family business in Spain and the 17th oldest in the world. They own 6 wineries and have a winemaking history that dates back to the mid-sixteenth century. In fact, Jaume Codorníu owned vineyards and was operating a winery in Sant Sadurní as early as 1551.

In 1659 Anna de Codorníu and Miquel Raventós married bringing the two winemaking families together. Two centuries later in 1872 Josep Raventós, one of their descendants, made the first bottle of sparkling wine outside of Champagne, France using the traditional method. The new sparkling wine was called “cava” after the caves or aging cellars.[1]

Seeking to bring the family tradition of making méthode champenoise sparkling wine to North America, they first opened Codorniu Napa in 1991. Then in 1997 the winery had a significant makeover with a new winemaker and a $10 million reconstruction. The winery was then re-opened in September 1999 at which time the winery’s name was changed to Artesa (ahr TESS uh), meaning “craftsman” in Catalan, the language of Barcelona.

The Winemaker

The winemaker for Artesa is Don Van Staaveren who has an extensive background in the craft. He was the winemaker for Arrowood (1990-1997) as he has also been the winemaker for Durell Vineyard for over 25 years. He is also the Head Winemaker at Three Sticks Winery and Silverpoint Cellars.[2] He is most well-known for being the winemaker for Chateau St. Jean (1990-1997) and helping to create 1996 Cinq Cépages, Wine Spectator’s ‘No. 1 Wine in the World’ in 1999.[3]

The Vineyards and The Wines

Today, Artesa focuses on ultra-premium wines for which the Carneros and the Napa Valley are best suited - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The grapes sourced from its 330 acres of vineyards in Carneros, Foss Valley Vineyards in the Atlas Peak AVA of Napa and the Alexander Valley AVA of Sonoma. The 150 acres of Carneros vineyards are devoted primarily to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Artesa produces both a Classic Tier and Reserve Tier of Pinot Noir along with Limited Release Wines as vintages dictate.

Although Artesa produces 10 different Bordeaux varietal wines from a variety of vineyards throughout the Napa Valley as well as a sparkling wine I decided to focus entirely on what the Carneros does best – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. So, while visiting I sampled the following wines:

The first wine was the 2011 Chardonnay, Carneros. The wine is clear pale straw in color with aromas of canned pears, dried apricots, hints of banana chips, and melon with mild floral aromas. On the palate it is full to medium+ bodied, crisp with medium+ acidity and a prolonged finish with a hint of hazelnut on the return. A well balanced wine with a value driven price at $20 per bottle.

The second pour was the 2011 Limited Release Chardonnay, Carneros. A more robust Chardonnay than the previous sample, this wine displays pronounced aromas of canned pears, tropical fruit, bananas, and a hint of butter. On the palate it is full bodied, rich and creamy and yet isn’t over-the-top as the fruit remains the major player. It is well balanced and it maintains is crisp acidity with a prolonged finish. This wine sells for $42 per bottle.

The third wine was the 2011 Estate Reserve Chardonnay, Carneros. An even bigger and more intense wine than the previous pours, this wine delivers pronounced tropical aromas, stone fruit, apricots, peaches, lemon-lime, coconut and sweet butter. On the palate it is full bodied and creamy, very rich and yet it is well balanced and maintains ample acidity with a prolonged finish. This wine sells for $35 per bottle.

Qualitatively these three Chardonnays are on par with each other, the primary difference is what style you prefer and the degree of how BIG and more of a California-style a wine you desire. I then transitioned to tasting four Pinot Noirs. Normally they do not offer Pinot Noir stemware, so I brought my own.

The fourth wine was the 2010 Pinot Noir, Carneros. On the nose this wine has pronounced aromas of strawberry preserves, cherries, dried roses and cinnamon. On the palate it is medium bodied with medium+ acidity, refined tannins with a medium length finish. A hallmark Carneros Pinot Noir and yet sells for $5 - $10 less than many comparable wines on the market at $25 per bottle.

The fifth wine was 2011 Limited Release Pinot Noir, Carneros. On the nose this wine is smoky with dark cherries and strawberries wrapped in bacon. On the palate it is medium bodied, a little soft on the tannins and has a medium+ length finish. This wine sells for $50 per bottle.

The sixth wine was 2011 Sangiacomo Pinot Noir, Carneros. On the nose this wine displays vibrant raspberries, cherries, and a hint of smoke. It is similar to the previous wine but it has greater acidity and a longer finish. This wine sells for $80 per bottle.

The final wine was 2010 Reserve Estate Pinot Noir, Carneros. On the nose this wine is very complex with pronounced fruit aromas of raspberries, strawberries, dark cherries and yet also has a pronounced bouquet of root beer, cola, earth and a hint of rubber tires. On the palate it has refined tannins, it is medium bodied with a very long finish. This wine was my favorite in the line-up and I brought one home for $40.

To see more pictures of Artesa, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography:

To visit or for more information:

Artesa Vineyards and Winery

1345 Henry Rd

Napa, CA 94559

Phone: 1-707-224-1668


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