By Bryan Calandrelli, Niagara Region Editor
Arrowhead Spring Vineyards billed their last tasting event at the winery as a “Release Event Special.” The tasting, which included five new reds grown in the winery’s own vineyard and one pinot noir sourced from Demaison Vineyard just down the road, wasn’t hyped as their first big estate-grown-red release, but that’s exactly what it was in my view.
Since many wineries are still buying grapes outside the county here, any time a winery releases the first wines made from their own vineyard it’s a pretty big deal.
Arrowhead’s flagship reds are their Meritage and Meritage Reserve, and in 2007 the winery sourced grapes for these from the Finger Lakes. Their 2008’s are exclusively from their vineyard and each one raises the bar from the previous vintage.
With both just recently blended from barrels after 23 months in American and French oak, they are currently showing quite a bit of oak on the nose with subtle cherry and plum notes. The 2008 Estate Meritage Reserve ($19.95) seems to show more fruit on the nose while feeling richer and smoother on the palate.
The 2009 Pinot Noir ($15.95) should be a big hit, and the price tag doesn’t hurt either. Light in body yet firmly structured with fine tannins and vibrant acidity, this is a fine example of Niagara pinot noir from a cool vintage. The sour cherry and raspberry aromas are complemented by an interesting hint of cookie dough and spice.
The 2008 Estate Cabernet Franc ($24.95) is just plain elegant, revealing toasty notes of blackberry, dark cherry and maple. The mouthfeel is subtle and vibrant, evoking the term minerality as much as any local red I’ve tasted. Its 23 months in New York oak barrels is surprising considering how well the oak is integrated without obvious American oak influence.
Cabernet sauvignon is a risky venture in New York but Arrowhead’s 2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.95) makes a case for this variety, even in a less than perfect vintage like 2008. Its juicy red currant and blackberry fruit is balanced well by vanilla and coconut notes while its structure and depth hints that it may be worthy of some cellar aging.
For my friends and I, however, there was obviously one wine that stole the show – and that was the 2008 Estate Malbec ($29.95). Arrowhead Spring is the only local winery growing this grape and none of us knew what to expect. Showing bramble fruit and spice on the nose, the wine was by far the most fruit forward of the flight. It also boasted the most full and fleshy mid-palate of the bunch which didn’t let up during its long harmonious finish.