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2014 Blueline Estate Malbec
Current Vintage Overview
The third year of California’s current drought cycle, 2014 was marked by a dry warm spring with early bud break and an even, warm summer. Harvest was on the early side, but not as early as 2015. Much of a vine’s hormonal cues are driven by soil and climate conditions in the spring. Soil temperature, available nutrients, available water and timing all interact with the plant to trigger its growth cycle and crop loads. Moreover, berry sizing is a function of these conditions. As a great deal of structure, flavor and aromatics are contained in the berry skins, small berries generally lead to improved density, richness and brighter aromas. As a result, the 2014 spring conditions contributed to smaller berry sizes and crop loads, and ultimately a fantastic grape chemistry. While not as tannic a vintage as 2013 yet more tannic than ‘12, 2014 as a whole fell right between ‘12 and ‘13 in terms of the balance of mouthfeel and aromatics. The ‘14s lean more toward the bright high toned aromatics of ‘12, yet with some, if not all, the density of ‘13. Ideally balanced, 2014 is reminiscent of the ‘01 wines, some of the most well preserved of their decade, tracking much like a mid ‘70s vintage. We can only hope 2014 follows in that vein.
In a state like California, there are few benefits to drought, yet the art of crafting extraordinary wines is one significant exception. Some of the mid ‘70s vintages, also grown during a drought cycle, remain legendary for the longevity and freshness their classic structural core provides. 2012, ’13 and ’14 vintages could play out much like those ‘70s vintages. While differing in character, 2012, ’13 and ’14 share a freshness of fruit expression and a tightly woven inner structural core—critical to a red wine’s age-ability. It stands to reason these vintages will hold up very well, long into the future.
Malbec has become a favorite of the cellar staff since our first vintage in 2010. We use it as a blending component in Merlot and Cabernet to help set structure, but its unique charm has led us to release a small amount of varietal Malbec to our mailing list (100 cases produced). To date, this is the most aromatically exotic wine from the 2014 vintage. Delicate, high-toned aromas drawing from the red fruit side of the spectrum, raspberry/strawberry mingle with dark sour cherry, hoisin sauce and an earthy blackberry bramble. On the palate, flavors of ripe plums, Bing cherries, bitter cocoa and raspberry liqueur leave a sleek textural impression. The mouth feel is rich and viscous yet a pronounced vibrancy of minerality excites the back mid-palate, a nervy energy that gives the wine a lively brightness. Thanks to its youthful energy and bright flavors, this wine pairs terrifically with a wide range of foods from oily fish to game meats like venison or duck.
The ‘14 Malbec is very approachable in its youth. As we have little experience aging Malbec from the Blueline Estate, we do not yet have a cellaring recommendation, but lower tannin concentration with higher color components lead us to believe
~Jeff Smith, January 2016