INSIDER'S PICK: NV MARIETTA CELLARS 'CHRISTO' LOT #3 NORTH COAST (Wine Advocate 91points) $19.99
For most of the drinking population, seeing a wine without a vintage on it (outside of Champagne) is a sign of low quality. A lot of that stems from the wine laws in most of Europe that do not allow the use of a vintage date on the most basic of wines or those that fall completely outside their appellation structure. The quality can be quite variable, and you are likely not going to have an obvious way to know just how long the wine has been in bottle. Making non-vintage wines does have the capability to make good quality, approachable and consistent wines in the right hands, and you are starting to find a revitalization in the approach by many of the new wave 'Traditionalist' wineries. Some use a Solera style method, where a small portion of the previous batch is blended with the new batch, which can bring a hint of aged or evolved complexity to the wine. Others will make smaller batches from portions kept in tank or barrel, using what is most ready and works the best at that time regardless of the age of each piece. Marietta Cellars has been doing this with their Old Vine Zin for decades (Lot number is up to the 60s now) and several years ago introduced the concept to make a Bordeaux based blend called Arme and this Rhone varietal based blend. Both blends are extremely successful with regards to quality and consistency, and show an extremely approachable style that makes them easy to enjoy without aging or long decanting.
Inky, tooth staining purple color and absolutely loaded with black fruits and dark spice that continue to open and evolve for hours on end, this is obviously not a lightweight wine. Even the small amount of Viognier is noticeable as it brings a hint of flowery perfume to the dark fruit; oddly, as it also does when used in Northern Rhone Syrah, it actually makes the wine look darker and shinier in the glass. In the mouth the texture is deep and palate coating, but the blend is extremely polished with very fine tannins. A bit on the modern side but approachable for all tastes, this impressive wine is a great option to have on hand for hearty meals and grilled foods.
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