2016 Blueline Estate Malbec
Tony Biagi refers to the 2016 growing season as a “Goldilocks vintage,” not too much, or too little of anything. All that fairy dust and grape chemistry in just the right proportions. Budbreak occurred at the Blueline Estate the last week of March, signaling what could have been another early vintage. When flowering occurred in the first week of May, we started to prepare for an early harvest tracking to match 2015. However, the subsequent summer months slacked the heat with cooler than normal temperatures. Wonderful diurnal swings (the magic of Napa) of warm days in the low 80’s and crisp nighttime temperatures dropping into the mid 50 degrees, became the story of the vintage. These sharp diurnals keep fruit fresh and healthy on the vine, preserve acid and allow for longer hangtime without fruit damage, or excessive accumulation of sugar. In these conditions, complex tannins are allowed to mature and color development deepens, leading to more refined structure, better aromatic integration and longer ageability. When harvest advanced, a vintage that looked to be as early as 2015, ended up being almost ten days later on vine. Ten days may not sound like much of a difference, but at the back end of harvest it’s the difference between a very good and monumental vintage.
As with the other varietal expressions from Blueline, the 2016 Malbec is a product of a great vintage. Grown in the sandy soils at the Blueline Estate, the Malbec delivers a complex range of aromatics and flavors along a spectrum of red to back fruit. Less dark and brooding than the 2015, this vintage brings out a wider spectrum of flavors. Bright aromas of strawberry and raspberry interweave with black cherry, blueberry and blackberry. Toasted vanilla rounds out the aromatic spectrum and provides a richer note underlying the fruit aromas. Sleek in texture and layered in fruit expression, the breadth of the wine is structurally framed to lend a precision to its depth of concentration. It’s rich and wide, yet highly delineated. More expressive of minerality than the 2015, the richness is brought to life with a vibrant mineral energy. This yin/yang of energy to richness gives the Malbec tremendous dimension. As for ageability, it’s hard to know for sure, but the ’16 Malbec should have enough structure to age 7 to 10 years. That said, the Malbec is showing beautifully upon release and may simply be too good to wait!
~Jeff Smith, 2018