heads and tails: àMaurice

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Young wineries face many challenges, but perhaps the most difficult of all is to stand out from the crowd. When the modern wine industry was just getting started, your mere existence was of interest. Then, as new AVAs were planted, developed, and designated, being in a unique location provided a hook for journalists in search of a story, and a destination for wine lovers in search of the next big thing.

These days, not so much. You’re a start-up in Walla Walla? Yawn. Opening a tasting room in Woodinville? The line starts over there. Offering a pretty nice chardonnay, merlot, and syrah? Good luck! Even wineries that seek out less tried and true grapes find the competition tougher and tougher – unless they offer something special, a little bit extra, in terms of style and flavor.

From the beginning, the wines of àMaurice have shown that promise. Now with six vintages behind her, winemaker Anna Schafer is presenting wines that move àMaurice to the front of the newcomer pack. These are wines that show what I call heads and tails. Many winemakers get the core right – big fruit and barrel toast – but blow out the head. By that I mean the intriguing, complex aromatics that set up the palate for elegance and depth, rather than just mere power. Grapes too ripe, fermentation too hot, barrels too intrusive, and you can say goodbye to nuance and terroir. Schafer’s wines are always inviting, from the first sniff to the last sip.

Tails refers to a wine’s finish. It’s not just a matter of long or short. The best wines continue to evolve through the finish. They don’t just hit a single note and stay there; they harmonize. àMaurice wines succeed here as well, particularly with what seem to be emerging as the signature wines – viognier and malbec.

The àMaurice 2008 Viognier ($25) is sourced from the Elephant Mountain, Gamache and Willard vineyards, and is barrel-fermented and whole-cluster pressed. It’s pure viognier with a vibrant core of juicy, lemon/lime, pink grapefruit, and sweet pineapple, all set against pleasing phenolics that provide a firm framework. The mouthfeel is lush and the finish clear and lightly mineral.

The àMaurice 2009 Sparrow Viognier ($33) – due for release next month – is from estate-grown fruit. Though Schafer says the winemaking was exactly the same, it’s a completely different wine from the Columbia valley bottling (different vintage also) – rich and honeyed, scented with bee pollen, candle wax, and hints of pine needle. Thick and viscous, Meyer lemon, caramel, honey and more coat the palate.

The àMaurice 2007 Malbec ($35) is detailed and deep, blending red and purple fruits with seams of vanilla and cut tobacco, and scents of cinnamon, peppery herbs and Asian spices. The flavors follow, with medium acidity and leafy tannins. Nicely balanced, spiced, varietal, and persistent.

àMaurice wines are available at a few specialty wine shops in the Seattle area, and through the winery website. Highly recommended.

àMaurice Cellars

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have had and bought the aMaurice malbec - what a great wine!


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