From the Winemaker. . . . ."
Twenty years ago I started something: Albariño in the New World. Right here on a plot of tough soil in southern Napa Valley in 1997 I established a small plot of Albariño vines with budwood that originated from the Morgadio estate in Rias Baixas, Galicia. Those vines produced the first New World bottles of the variety with vintage 1999. I’ve made Albariño from this vineyard every year since (except for 2008, when I was working in Spain), first under the Havens Wine Cellars brand, then more recently with my friend Morgan Twain-Peterson under the Abrente label. Since 2016 this fruit has become Cave Dog Albariño.
As you’ve probably heard, 2017 was in many ways a challenging year in northern California: after plenty of rain, we experienced quite a hot Summer. The moisture helped the vines set a reasonable crop, so that warmth did not advance sugar accumulation ahead of flavor maturity, as it can with a reduced crop of fruit. That was the situation until an exceptional hot-spell came on the horizon for the first days of September. As I am vigilant in sampling my fruit and read weather forecasts compulsively, I was able to get the fruit picked timely: The Godello was picked on August 29, and the Albariño on August 30, when our high temperatures here were 75 and then 79. On September 1st and 2nd, peak temperatures had risen to 106. Phew!
Why is this weather-watching so important? Because if I had casually waited for the heat to hit before picking, the freshness and varietal character you will find in these 2017s would have been dulled by higher alcohol, lower acidity, and general loss of charm. As it is, they have all the liveliness and aromatic zest these wonderful varieties should offer. And that’s why I make these wines.
The 2017 Albariño has a haunting floral greeting, with notes of guava and lychee. Its natural acidity is substantial, but the fruit richness offers a balance that makes it luscious. I like to drink this wine by itself, with seafood, anything spicy, whether Asian or new world spices, and to be honest, I think it pairs with more foods than virtually any white variety. I’m really happy to still be making this wine 21 years after starting the variety here."
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