Renowned for their signature Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines, Artesa Vineyards and Winery continues to improve with each vintage. 2013 was an ideal growing season, with rain at the right time, and moderate temperatures, warm and cool, that allowed for a long hang time, which developed intricate aromas and flavors. Artesa’s estate vineyards, officially labelled Napa Valley, crown the winery’s regal perch in the hills of Carneros, between Napa and Sonoma Valleys. The soils here are different from the rest of Carneros, more gravelly, and the grapes express the struggle for life, concentrated and complex. Often referred to as the “Jewel of Carneros”, Artesa has developed an impressive lineup of wines that best reflect the terroir, the estate bottlings of distinctive Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs thrive in this cool, windswept region.
For over a quarter century, the Raventós family of Spain’s esteemed Codorniu Group has worked to develop Artesa’s potential, starting with sparkling wines and transitioning to still wines. Artesa, the Catalan word for “handcrafted”, embodies their philosophy. With their new director of winemaking, Portuguese native Ana Diogo Draper, at the helm, Artesa’s focus is on artisanal, small lot production, a blend of Old and New World ideology and techniques. Respecting each parcel’s unique terroir, and using a palette of winemaking tools to coax the best from the grapes, Diogo-Draper works sustainably, hand harvesting and sorting the fruit, using wild yeasts when possible, and gently pressing the grapes to avoid harsh flavors in the final wine.
Artesa offers three different classifications of wine, the classic, reserve, and limited release tiers. The Classic Tier, or Carneros wines, offer quality and value, an entry level wine, made from grapes grown outside of the estate. The Estate Reserve, in addition to the Limited Release wines, are the crème de la crème, crafted as distinctive, age-worthy wines, available only in small lots, and only from hand-harvested estate fruit. The Estate Chardonnay is whole cluster pressed and fermented in French oak barrels, afterwards it went through malolactic fermentation, and then aged on its lees, with a twice weekly stirring. The final blend reflects Artesa’s distinct style, with a leesy mineral character and smooth mouthfeel. The Estate Pinot Noir was destemmed but not crushed, and cold soaked in stainless steel tanks for four days, which gently extracted color and flavor, to avoid rough tannins. Fermented with native yeast, the wine was aged for 10 months in French oak, which gave the wine a subtle toasty character.
The 2013 Artesa Estate Reserve Napa Valley Chardonnay is aromatic and elegant, a well balanced wine whose acidity keeps the richness in check, making it refreshing while concentrated and intense. A ripe, fragrant nose of apple, pear, honeycomb, and a hint of butterscotch reveals a structured palate of white peach, apple, and Meyer Lemon, interlaced with toasty oak and a distinct minerality, whose finish lingers for a long time. Made from the best Chardonnay fruit grown in the highest vineyards on the Carneros side of the Estate, it’s a beautiful wine, a great example of cool climate California Chardonnay.
The 2013 Artesa Estate Reserve Napa Valley Pinot Noir is elegant and silky smooth, with aromas of cherry, strawberry, and raspberry fruit interwoven with floral notes of rose petals and violets, laced with bright acidity and light spice. It’s well balanced in its concentrated berry fruit and subtle oak, and finishes long. Ready to drink now, this Estate Pinot will continue to evolve for some time in the bottle.
Widely available, these wines are beautiful examples of fruit forward Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that are elegant and well balanced. Both wines retail for $40, well priced for the quality, and are truly gems in Artesa’s crown.