October 23, 2008

Arietta tasting

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I was fortunate enough to attend a tasting of the wines from Arietta, the Californian winery where I'm a mailing list member. I've been buying wines from them for 5 years, but this would be the first time for me to meet the proprietor, Fritz Hatton. The venue today was at Cipriani, one of my favorites for Italian food. The food was simple yet elegant.

We started with a white truffle risotto, where the fragrance of the white truffles completely blew away any nose I could detect from the wines, and very nicely done grilled beef that is red and tender in the middle while slightly charred on the outside. It's also a bit fatty on the edges which gives it the wonderful flavor.

We tasted through a whole range of Arietta's offerings, with some library wines which are no longer available. The notes are as follows:

2007 On the White Keys - a Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, the nose packed a big punch of oak at the beginning with lots of minerals, but softened up a bit with a hint of citrus.

2005 H-Block Hudson Vineyard - with 80% Cabernet Franc, this would be the equivalent of Cheval Blanc in Napa. Vry ripe nose and initially the high alcohol was very evident, almost overpowering. Lots of sweet fruit, caramel and plum here with heavy and chewy tannins. Opened up in the glass and softened significantly with time. Surprisingly drinkable for such a young wine.

2002 H-Block Hudson Vineyard - a very big wine, with very sweet fruit on the nose and tannins that are a bit harsh and heavy. Second pour was a lot better. This wine just needs time to soften up.

2000 H-Block Hudson Vineyard - my first impression was a bit of 鐵打酒 (Chinese liquid Ben-Gay), which faded to reveal a wine that was very smooth with silky tannins. Sweet on the after palate.

1997 Proprietary Red - this is a wine that I drank EXACTLY 2 months ago, which blew me away. Interesting to see that this drank like a completely different wine today! With 80% Cabernet Franc, the nose was very typically Bordeaux with lots of brett, leather and sweet fruit. Like 2 months ago, there were still plenty of tannins left. The nose became a bit more medicinal towards the end, which I guess is just more of the brett coming out.

2003 Variaton One - the 2000 vintage of this wine (the first vintage made) was the first bottle of Arietta that I purchased. When I drank this last year, the combination of Syrah and Merlot totally blew me away, and confirmed that my decision to get on Arietta's mailing list was indeed a wise one. The 2003 is really big and fruity, a bit of a fruit bomb like the 2000. The alcohol level was a bit high, and the tannins were very evident. But this was a really good wine, with enough complexity to make it interesting. It packs the punch of the stereotypical Californian Syrah, but at the same time wears the velvet glove that is Merlot.

2006 Quartet - This is a combination of 4 Bordeaux-blend varietals (except Malbec) where the fruit has been sourced from David Abreu. It's a typical Californian Cab with a sweet nose laced with a little coffee, caramel and vanilla. The nose is powerful and still a bit sharp in terms of alcohol, and still pretty tannic on the palate.

2006 Variation One - surprisingly the nose was a bit muted with coffee notes. The wine was acidic on the palate. I wonder what happened to this bottle...

2006 H-Block Hudson Vineyard - A very sweet wine with high alcohol. Really needs more time to age.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon - what an awesome wine this is! A classic Californian Cab that is very sweet both on the nose and palate. This is exactly what I love about Californian wine! The wine has been sold out on the mailing list, but I'm going to hold Fritz to his promise to sell me a couple of bottles...

Needless to say I was well buzzed at the end of lunch. But I came away really happy, having tasted so many of Arietta's wines, including those which I have purchased in years past but have yet to taste. A big "Thank You" to Fritz and the co-host of the lunch!

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