Artesa Winery is small winery in Napa Valley that makes artisanal wines, principally small-batch Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Albarino and Tempranillo. The wines are very good and sometimes hard to obtain, although some have trickled into New Hampshire State Liquor & Wine Outlets.
Artesa and its wines were featured in the recent movie “Wine Country”, a feel-good romp through Napa Valley which stars Amy Poehler – who also directed the film – and her former Saturday Night Live colleagues Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch. If you saw the movie, Artesa’s beautiful natural landscape was prominently displayed in shot-after-shot as Poehler and her crew walked through vineyards, talked about life, and drank wine – sometimes too much of it. One classic scene showed the women at a wine-tasting event on what is Artesa’s outdoor patio that overlooks a reflecting pool and offers stunning views of the sloping vineyards in Los Carneros.
Several months ago, I sampled Artesa’s Pinot Noir and wrote a glowing review about it. Now I’ve had the chance to sample the winery’s two tiers of Chardonnay. While there is a narrow separation point on both Chardonnays – mainly in textural structure – I can confidently say they are high quality and well worth the money.
At present, New Hampshire stores have the introductory level Pinot Noir ($22.99) and Chardonnay ($19.99) on sale. The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($69.99) is also are available.
Artesa 2016 Los Carneros Chardonnay, SRP $21.99; Artesa Estate Vineyard Chardonnay, SRP $38 – Spain’s oldest wine-making family, Raventos Codorniu, founded this Napa Valley winery in 1991 on a sea-side facing hillside. From this gorgeous perch, where Pacific Ocean breezes offer relief to sun-swept vineyards, Artesa has produced gorgeous, small-lot artisanal wines, including two delicious Chardonnays.
Artesa’s entry Chardonnay draws fruit from the winery’s estate vineyard as well as cooler, foggy sites in the Los Carneros region. A milder growing season with less excessive summer heat ensured longer hang-time for the grapes and good character development. You can taste the vibrancy in this charmer, where the acidity strikes a wonderful balance with the alcohol (14.2%) to create a nice, seamless, soft texture. The fruit is fresh and tropical. I really love a Chardonnay that exhibits a subtle lemony trait to go along apple and orange flavors, and Artesa covers the palate in a citrus medley. Ann Diogo-Draper, who was born in Portugal, has been with Artesa since 2013 and was promoted to director of winemaking two years later. She’s keen on tracking individual vineyard blocks and clones and making improvements, but otherwise Ana is hands-off on manipulating the final product. Artesa stands out for its beautiful texture. After grapes were whole-cluster pressed, the juice was separated 60-40 for fermentation in French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks, respectively. Native yeasts were used. Half of the resulting lots undergoes malolactic fermentation. The assembled wine is then aged on its lees for nine months with weekly stirring (batonnage) to add complexity. Abut 13,000 cases were produced.
Artesa 2016 Estate Vineyard Chardonnay (14.5% alcohol) uses fruit from the winery’s highest vineyard blocks in Los Carneros, located along the edge of Mt. Veeder AVA. The site gets morning sun exposure but less in the afternoon. Once again, the grapes ripen fully while retaining natural acidity. So what separates this first-tier Chardonnay from the aforementioned bottling? The flavor profile is more intense and the palate creamier, but not buttery. There’s more elegance and finesse. It begins with the fruit, which is sourced from 20-year-old vines growing in five distinct blocks and gravelly soils. The primary fermentation pattern changes too: a 70-30 ratio between French oak and stainless steel, with
malolactic fermentation following for 50 percent of the lots. The wine ages for nine months on its lees with increased weekly stirring lasting for four months. The highly quality components come through in heightened aromatics and flavors – Meyer lemon, pear, toasty vanilla – and minerality. Only 2,500 cases of this tasty wine were produced. Order direct from the winery (www.artesawinery.com) and through online outlets.