Sunday, February 14, 2010

Alienor 2005, 2006 and 2007

Former winemaker of Château Latour, Denis Malbec, and his Swedish wife May-Britt, has since 2001 made wines in California. Most of their time, they make and blend wines as consultants for their customers, among them the top notch Kapcsándy Family Wines in Yountville and Blankiet Estate (since January this year).
Under their own label Notre Vin, they make some exquisite wines at one of their customers winery in Sonoma, the well structured and intensely fruity Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the even better but far too expensive Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Pinot Noir Clos Madeleine from Sonoma Coast is good, but lacks finesse and intensity.
They also make a very interesting wine from grapes sources in Kelseyville in Lake County, called Alienor. The Merlot is planted in 1993 in the Roster Vineyard, the Cabernet Franc from a suitcase clone from Bordeaux in 1999, and the Petit Verdot a Quercus Ranch in 2002. Depending on the vintage, the cuvée varies a lot. These are the first three vintages. Harvest is done by hand, followed by a careful sorting process, light crush and a five to seven day long cold soak. Fermentation is taken place in small stainless steel tanks with regular remontage. The cuvaison stretches over three weeks, and thereafter the wine is transferred into small French oak barrels, of which 60 per cent are new, for malolactic fermentation and 20-22 months of ageing.

2005 Alienor / 90-91 p
In this inaugural vintage, Cabernet Franc counted for 96 per cent of the blend, with a balance of Merlot and a tiny per cent of Petit Verdot. It’s really a St-Emilion look-alike, and it’s damn good. The nose is medium intense, quite classic and very elegant with notes of cedar, and with a complex touch of consommé. Tannins are surprisingly silky, yet they add a fine structure to the fine tuned fruit, and the aftertaste lingers for a minute. It’s a beauty.
Drink it 2010-2016.

2006 Alienor / 89 p
The 2006 vintage were made of 92 per cent Merlot, which explains why this is the softer wine of the trio. You’ll find some slightly sweet fruit qualities and less complexity in this vintage, which is more California styled (of course, it’s from California), rather than classic. Also, tannins are softer. It’s good, but not great.
Drink it over the next 2-3 years.

2007 Alienor / 91-92 p
Of the trio, this was the perfect blend, equal parts of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, and just one per cent of Petit Verdot made up the cuvée. Again, there are a lot of Bordeaux-like qualities on the nose and on the palate, with a delightful grassiness as well as cassis and blackberries, and just a small hint of the oak and coffee. On the palate, it’s well balanced, intense and youthfully fruit forward, yet with a great portion of finesse, and the tannic structure is mature, well integrated and fine. For 65 dollars, it’s a catch! Only 225 cases were made.
Drink it 2010-2020.

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