Friday, February 11, 2011

New wines from Alienor

Denis Malbec, former winemaker at Château Latour and since 2000 with his Swedish wife May-Britt vintner in Napa Valley, started to make wines under the Alienor label in 2005. Their red cuvée is a very good and highly recommended interpretation of red bordeauxs, and since based on Merlot and Cabernet Franc, it’s more towards the St Emilion style than the Médoc.
I’ve been writing about these wines before, but here are some new efforts well worth looking for. Both the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2008 La Roseraie are inaurugal releases, and in the pipeline there’s a dark red wine of Syrah and a sweet late harvest of Sauvignon Blanc. Both these wines are still in barrel when this report was written.

2009 Sauvignon Blanc / 88 p
This is the first vintage of the sauvignon, made of the Clone 1 from an organically block planted in 1998 on eroded alluvial soils at 400 meters of altitude in Vindrem Vineyard in Kelseyville in Lake County. Approximately a third of the juice is fermented in small steel drums, the rest in brand new French oak barrels. Denis Malbec told me he had to use new oak for this inaugural vintage, but in the future, there will be a third each of new oak, neutral oak and steel drums. There was no malolactic, so the acitiy is very fresh, but it is balanced by a fine texture, which to a certain extent was enhanced by some bâtonnage during the three months of oak ageing that took place. Color is pale straw and the nose is bright and intense with notes of grapefruit, some passion fruit and just a dash of the oak. It’s not too far away from white Bordeaux. I’d love to see this wine in the coming few years, as I expect it to evolve into a more complex taste just with another year in the bottle. Serve it at 12 degrees to oysters, elegant fish dishes, pan fried or grilled white fish with lemon, or just because it’s so good and refreshing. Only 133 cases were made of this wine.
Drink it 2011-2016.

2008 La Roseraie / 85 p
This rosé, also an inaugural vintage, is made with the saignée method by bleeding of the juice of equal parts of Merlot and Cabernet Franc (and oinly two percent of Petit Verdot) after just a few hours of maceration from the fermentation of their 2008 Alienor Grand Vin. Again, grapes are sourced from vineyards in Lake County. The pink colored juice was fermented in neutral French oak barrels with commercial yeast and then kept in the oak for around one year, and during the ageing there was some bâtonnage. It’s a very classic rosé, pale pink in a typical French style, and the nose is quite elegant but also a bit closed. For sure there are notes of the oak, as well as texture and just some tannins and bitterness thereof, so I guess this is not everyones rosé. However, I find it attractive in it’s classical, well structured and somehow complex style, but I rather drink it with food (pasta, grilled fish or seafood, greens and cheeses) that having in on its own. Serve it a 12-14 degres.
Drink it 2011-2014.

2008 Alienor Grand Vin / 90-91 p
As the 2007 vintage, this is more or less a blend of 49 percent each of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, with a splash of Petit Verdot. Five to seven days of cold soak, then the fermentation takes place in five ton stainless steel fermentes for two weeks with regular pump over. After little more than two weeks of postmaceration, the wine was barreled in French oak barrels, 70 percent new, and kept there for 22 months. It’s still a very young wine, driven by its rich and slightly sweet fruit and the spicy oak, but underneath that, there are those fine notes of lead pencil I found in the previous vintages, and I really like that. It would benefit from some more years of bottle age, or if drinking it today, a good hour or two of decanting. Also on the palate, it’s a bit closed, of course, and although the tannins are huge, they are mature and in no way aggressive, dry or bitter. They just hold the fruit back, today. Keeping the wine in the mouth for a minute, one more easily can take notice of the great and very much Bordeaux like qualities there is in the wine, and that’s very promosing.
Drink it 2013-2023.


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