Deeply colored and boldly styled, the 1999 Artesa Napa Merlot is not one of the wimpy, cherry-berry, cola-styled Merlots. Rather, this is a serious, robust Merlot that recalls top notch St. Emilion, with a California attitude. Scents of deep down black fruits, most notably black cherry and cassis, coupled with vanilla bean and coffee, slowly unfold from the glass. On the palate, ripe uncomplicated fruit and a hint of both sweet oak and chocolate entice the gullet. Despite a healthy dollop of well-integrated tannin in the finish, the Artesa Napa Merlot offers a nicely rounded feel and is quite enjoyable now. Nevertheless, we believe this Merlot will be even better in a year or two, if you can wait that long. In any case, we suggest allowing the 1999 Artesa Merlot to breathe for at least thirty minutes, before consuming it at room temperature.
No self-respecting California Merlot needs food,' uttered one taster. Well then in that case, this Artesa Merlot has more than its share of self respect, chimed another member of the panel You got that right, this wine certainly doesn't suffer from a poor self image, replied a third voice. In other words, you don't need to hide this wine behind a fancy dish. If you like rich mouth filling Merlot, the Napa Artesa Merlot supplies more than enough flavor and pleasure to fill the bill on its own. Nonetheless, the usual beef, lamb and pork offerings all provide pleasant companions, as does wild game. And just for the record, one of our favorite accompaniments to the Artesa Merlot remains a Pork Loin Chop, topped with brandied apples and served with a caramelized onion bread pudding. Yum!
Artesa is perhaps the most imaginative and striking of all Napa Valley wineries, rivaling and even surpassing the likes of Opus One and Dominus. Resplendent with a sculpture studded visitor center and a new futuristic fountain, everything about this young winery exudes panache and style, including the bevy of opulent, individualistic wines that flow from its exquisite vineyards. Artesa means 'craftsman' in Catalan, the language of Barcelona and the winery's owners, the Raventos family. As the name implies, all of this world-class winery's offerings are handcrafted. Born in 1991 to great fanfare, Artesa has undergone several makeovers in order to specialize in the production of small lots of exquisite wines from single vineyards. Established originally to make only premium sparkling wines, Artesa has adroitly switched its focus to include a range of premium still wines from California's finest varietals. Consequently, this winery's most notable offerings include a classic, complex Merlot, a stunning Carneros Chardonnay, an equally tantalizing Pinot Noir, and a rich, elegant Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, in addition to several excellent champagne style sparkling wines. In total, Artesa comprises 352 acres in Carneros, 409 acres in northern Alexander Valley, and a new 300-acre Sonoma Coast property that will soon produce Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Spain's most important white varietal Albarino. Overseeing the entire still wine production at Artesa is Don Van Staaveren, the winemaker who created the now legendary Cinq Cepage while at Chateau St. Jean. He also holds an unprecedented number of Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of the Year, as well as that publication's Wine of the Year Award.' In other words, this guy knows how to make wine.
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