William Knuttel first came under the spell of Malbec in the 1990s when he was VP/Winemaker at Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery, where an extensive number of Malbec clones were evaluated, including many from Argentina. The fruitfulness of Malbec varies greatly depending on clone. Knuttel designed experiments to examine wine quality as a function of pruning techniques, ripeness, and extraction techniques, among other variables. The most important conclusion was simple: Malbec quality is highly dependent upon yield! At similar cropping, the clones showed little difference in flavor characteristics, but higher yields limited flavor concentration. The key to quality Malbec is to limit its crop. William Knuttel has since been producing Malbec under his eponymous brand, and, more recently, with his offerings from Argentina under the Tentadora brand—the temptation to go back to the source was irresistible.
Vineyard and Winemaking
Peterson Vineyard, on Bradford Mountain in northwest Dry Creek Valley, yields intensely flavored grapes with great natural acidity from its well-drained, red-clay hillsides. Fully ripened clusters from the near perfect 2014 vintage were hand harvested and gently crushed to one-ton fermenters. The must was inoculated after two days of cold soaking the berries. Extraction with three punch downs daily continued until the wine was completely dry, at which time it was pressed to 100% French oak, predominantly Francois Freres, for malolactic fermentation. Fourteen months aging in barrel, with quarterly racking, completed the classic Bordeauxstyle winemaking utilized in the making of this Malbec.
The 2014 Peterson Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Malbec is densely scented with aromas of blueberry, boysenberry and earth, gently massaged with oak spice. Flavors of black cherry and raspberry chime in on the mid-palate, and resolved tannins amply support the lengthy finish. This wine is eminently suited to the table, and pairs especially well with roasted meats and grilled vegetables.