Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Artesa Vineyards and Winery Revisited

Artesa Vineyards and Winery, often referred to as "The Jewel of Carneros", is a very unique winery that should not to be missed.  Overlooking a 350 acre estate in Napa's Carneros AVA, the winery was built over a two year period beginning in 1991 when thirty million dollars was spent to create one of the loveliest and most interesting modern buildings in California. It is a superb work of art designed by the famous Spanish architect Domingo Triay.  Built into a hillside with gorgeous panoramic views, it is one of my favorite modern structures, fascinating both inside and out. For me, it is as interesting as a work by Frank Lloyd Wright. It also has amazing views of San Francisco Bay and Carneros.  On clear days the San Francisco skyline can even be seen. The beautiful grounds include lovely walkways, numerous sculptures, cascading water, several ponds with fountains, and a spectacular stairway that leads up over their barrel room taking you from the parking lot to the main building. They also have art work on display inside, sponsor an artist in residence, Gordon Huether, and make wine that is artistically crafted.

One of the fountains and ponds at Artesa

The winery is owned by the Raventos family of Spain, a family who has been involved in winemaking since 1551. The winery was initially known as "Codorniu Napa" and produced only sparkling wines until 1999 when they changed the name to Artesa Winery and began producing still wines.  "Artesa" is a Catalan word for "handcrafted" and Artesa's 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon was named one of Wine Spectator's top thirty wines in the world in 2002.  Artesa produces some excellent wines that tend to be rather subtle, elegant and very well balanced.  They do not seem to be into producing overly done wines, those big, bold, over the top wines that can be overly extracted, or overly ripe, or overly tannic, or overly oaked that can sometimes impress initially but are often one dimensional.  This seems to be reflected especially in their Pinot Noirs which are lighter in style, emphasizing freshness, fruit and finesse.

Artesa winery building

We had been to Artesa several years ago and tried the regular tasting so I was looking forward to returning and sampling some of their reserve wines.  We had a friendly, welcoming experience both times.  Much thanks this time to Andrea for providing such a pleasant and informative experience.

One of many gorgeous views from Artesa

Our first pour was the Artesa 2012 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc at $26. This is 95% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Semillon.  25% of it saw five months new French oak.  Only 950 cases were produced. Very light straw in color.  Great aroma of melon, white peach and minerality.  On the palate I got melon, white peach, and pear with some pineapple, all very well balanced with a clean medium length finish.  I especially liked how well this interesting Sauvignon Blanc came together. Although it had plenty of fruit, it remained dry and crisp with just enough roundness from the Semillon. This was great to drink on it its own but would pair very nicely with a variety of dishes. It is one of the nicest Napa Valley Sauvignon Blancs I've tasted recently.

Artesa patio with views

Second up was the Artesa Limited Release 2011 Carneros Pinot Noir at $50. The grapes came from the Artesa Estate Vineyard (91%) and the Sangiacomo Vineyard (9%). All of it was aged for nine months in French oak with half of it in new French oak.  Only 531 cases were produced. On the very pleasant nose I got mostly red cherry with some spicy oak.  On the palate I got mostly red cherry with some strawberry and spices followed by a very refreshing, moderate plus length finish. The fresh fruit is balanced by some good acid and well integrated tannins. This is a lighter style, very dry, rather subtle Pinot with a lot more going on than most lighter style Pinots .  It is very drinkable now but should develop well over the next few years. 

One of three Artesa tasting bars

Our fourth pour was the Artesa Limited Release 2010 Tempranillo (Alexander Valley) at $40.  I was unable to find production notes on this wine.  It had a very nice aroma of red cherry and spices and had red currant, red plum and blueberry on the palate along with some cloves. This medium bodied Tempranillo finished nicely with a medium to long finish with hints of blueberry.  It is always nice to find California wineries that produce this lovely Spanish varietal. A very pleasant Tempranillo.

One of several ponds at Artesa

Fifth up was the Artesa Artisan Series 2010 Cabernet Franc (Alexander Valley) at $40.  This has 2% Cabernet Sauvignon added.  Whole berry fermented, it was aged for 18 months in French oak with 35% of it aged in new French oak.  Only 992 cases were produced.  I got blackberry, white pepper and cloves on the nose.  The palate for me was blackberry, cherry, and white pepper with some toastiness and a long finish where some chocolate also emerged.  It had well integrated tannins and good structure with a refreshing brightness.  A very nice Cab Franc.

Stairs at Artesa from parking lot to winery

Sixth in line was the Artesa Artisan Series 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) at $46.  This had 8% Petit Verdot and 2% Merlot.  Medium purple in color with a pink rim.  I got a moderate nose of black currants with some chocolate and cedar.  On the palate I got black currant, cherry, cedar, caramel and toastiness, all well balanced,  followed by a medium length finish.  This is not one of those overly ripe Napa Valley Cabs, although it has plenty of fruit. It is a medium bodied Cab and very easy to drink.

Part of the Artesa tasting room area

This was followed by the Artesa 2010 Morisoli-Borges Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) at $85.  I could not locate any production notes on this wine.  Morisoli-Borges, though, is a very famous vineyard in Rutherford that is known for great Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. In addition to using their own estate grapes, Artesa sources grapes from other vineyards and they were either wise enough or fortunate enough to obtain some Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Morisoli-Borges. This had a very good nose of black currants, blackberry and toast.  It was lush, smooth and very well balanced on the palate with cassis, blackberry, toasted oak, and forest floor. Well integrated tannins with very good structure and a very long, classy finish. Very drinkable now but should age nicely.  This is an awesome Cabernet!  At $85 it is well worth the price and then some.  I always thought of Artesa wines primarily in terms of Pinot Noir and Spanish varietals.  Obviously they are also making some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley.  Of course we had to purchase some of this great Cab.

View from Artesa's parking lot

Prior to leaving we were offered a taste of their sparkling wine the Codorniu Napa Grand Reserve that retails at $42.  This is a nonvintage Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blend that was well balanced, crisp and dry with many layers of fruit.  I did not get much yeast, but it was a very drinkable and pleasant sparkling wine.  I'd like to sit down with a bottle of it and have more time to carefully taste it.

Room at Artesa next to tasting room

When you arrive at Artesa you will need to walk from the parking lot, up the outdoor steps and across the courtyard to the main building where you may pay for your tasting at the front desk when you enter. There is a small tasting bar by the front door and two other larger ones farther inside near the gift shop.  You may stay at the bar to taste or elect to take your tastings out on the patio to enjoy the weather and scenery.  Service is not provided on the patio, however, so you will need to return to the tasting bar for each pour.  You may also purchase a bottle of wine and sit on the patio to drink it or do the same with a glass of their sparkling wine, the sparkling wine being the only one which may be purchased by the glass. 

Artesa gift shop

Artesa is very popular, especially during the summer or on weekends and holidays, and particularly after 1 PM. We were informed that there is often a quiet period at Artesa from noon to 1PM when visitors go to lunch. As with all popular Napa Valley wineries, the quietest times are usually weekdays before 1PM, especially Tuesday through Thursday. 

Some of the art on display in Artesa's tasting room

Artesa has an extensive list of tasting and tour options in addition to the basic ones listed below.  These include: The Estate Reserve Experience, Wine and Cheese Pairing, Chocolate Indulgence, International Tapas and Wine Pairing, Vines and Wines Vineyard Tours, Food and Wine Pairing, Tapas and Wine Pairing and The Ultimate Tasting.  Please see their web page listed below for details.  We have not tried any of these but we both really enjoyed the Limited Release/Reserve Tasting and it is only $5 more than the Classic Tasting.  If you like sparkling wine, I'd recommend opting for a glass of that, too. We really enjoy visiting Artesa and highly recommend a visit to this very special winery.

Another pond with fountains at Artesa

Artesa Vineyards and Winery
1345 Henry Rd
Napa, CA 94558
Phone: (707)224-1668
Date of revisit: October 9, 2013

Art in Artesa tasting room

The information below is from Artesa's webpage as of October 9, 2013. Please call or check their website for current information which is subject to change. Artesa tastings and tours

"Tasting Room hours 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM daily. Last pour at 4:30 PM"
Artesa offers a Classic Tasting of four wines for $15 and a Limited Release/Reserve Tasting of 5 wines for $20. Or you can enjoy a flute of our Grand Reserve Sparkling Wine for $12. If your preference is m├ęthode champenoise we offer a glass of our Grand Reserve sparkling wine ($10).
Winery Tours
Guided tours of our wine making facility are available daily at 11AM and 2PM. The cost is $20 per person and includes a tasting of three wines at the end of the tour. Joining the public tour is first come, first serve so you do not need reservations to book one of these tours. It is a good idea, however, to arrive at Artesa 10-15 minutes prior to the tour start time to ensure there is space available.
Groups of 8 or more require advanced reservations and must be privately hosted. Please call (707) 254-2126"

Artesa entry sign

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