Malbec sometimes carries a humble aire that belies its royal history. It is neither simply rustic nor regal, yet it is also both. Starting as a down-to-earth workhouse grape planted in southern France by Roman soldiers, it grew to be the favored wine in the royal courts of Europe.
We might not otherwise know about Malbec except that in the twelfth century the grape was the favorite of Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose impressive resumé included reigning as, first, Queen of France, then Queen of England. Malbec later gained a role in blending with the great grapes of Bordeaux and was singled out by Russian Czars. In the new world, especially Argentina, it’s become bigger than ever, though maybe some of its past glory has been overshadowed as it has become better known as the fruit bomb to pair with backyard barbecues. But this grape will not be limited to either pretension or commonness. In fact, Malbec is at its best combining its strengths.
The style behind the Malbec you pop the cork on depends on the terroir in which it’s grown and how the winemakers handle it once picked. The style of our Malbec is first laid out by the high-desert influence of the Portteus Vineyard in the rolling Rattlesnake Hills hunkered above Zillah and the Yakima river. The site is warm but not too hot. It’s breezy but not windswept. And the soils are loamy without being overly fertile. In other words, the grapes were grown in the land of just-rightness.
We try to treat the juice with a similar balance once we tip the grapes into our wooden fermenters. We go for a persistent extraction of flavors from the skins and seeds while preserving a supple texture on the palate. In the cellar, we use a mixture of older and newer French oak barrels to broaden the profile of the wine, making sure it’s aged for just the right amount of time. Where most “black” grapes, AKA red wine grapes, tend toward an earthy color palette, Malbec begins its life a deep purple. A blue subtone beats out the shadings of brick that underlay most other red wines. Barrel aging softens this hard hue, and the blue fades to stained-dark brick.
The fruit flavor follows a similar path. The bright, clarion fruit of a wine’s youth gives way to savory nuance and an ability to enhance a variety of meals. This is where we decided to take our Malbec. There are still some exciting flashes of fruit and a remaining twinge of purple to darken the brick tones.
We think there’s a lot of “just right” going into the bottle with this wine. It’s as rustic as it is regal and ready for the finest cut of steak or simply a plate of well-seasoned beans and rice.
-- Ben Thompson
Winemaker and Production Manager
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This whole Port Townsend Vineyards project started with a vineyard. The dream was, through hard work and smart decision-making, to grow grapevines on the very edge of the growing zone and create a wine that folks would want to drink. In a fully maritime climate, complete with fog and ocean breezes, the challenge is significant. Our first harvests were so small that we included the yield in our Discovery blends, but the last two vintages have been just large enough to print labels and highlight the work our local vines have done to produce unique, place-based wines.
The thing about terroir (terhe-WAH) is that the flavors your vineyard produces are unique in the world. The more genuine your practices, the more defined the fingerprint of your terroir. That’s why we use only organic practices and let the vineyard bloom in wildflowers in the spring and early summer. If we were more ruthless with the soil and more favorable to chemicals, we could probably yield more fruit. But it would taste as lifeless as the many corporate wines out there. We favor the unique and grow our wines with our minds on the customer who cares about things being done the right way.
We love working with our vineyard partners in the warmer parts of Washington and in Oregon. We feel the grapes we bring in from their vineyards complement our local foods and appeals to the tastes of savvy wine drinkers in our region. But if you ask us what we’re really excited about, it’s the wine from the vines that we laid gently into hand-dug holes in those glacial soils on the slopes of an old cow pasture in the center of town. In those wines our real story is told.
It may be a fancy of the imagination, but I swear I can taste the effort behind it all and how all Port Townsend Vineyard’s employees and owners have played a role in the vineyard from planting to pruning to picking. Beyond that I taste the soft springs, wet Junes, grey summer mornings, breezy evenings and long Indian summers that I’ve always known and (mostly) loved about my hometown. And to think we can pour all this into a glass to enjoy.
--Ben Thomas, Winemaker & Production Manager
We’re really excited to feature three wines this summer that we saw through from root to bottle. We’re starting with our 2018 Pinot Noir that has more in common with the reds of Germany and the higher vineyards in the Alps. With its lighter color and a more ethereal bouquet of huckleberries and cedar, it’s a wine to sip on a mild, rainy June day or slightly chilled on a warm July day before the evening zephyr gathers.
The next wine we’d like to share this summer is our 2019 Madeleine Angevine. We planted this grape on two separate places on our vineyard. It’s surprising how much the differences in those two sites affected the wines. One was steely and reserved and the other almost came on too strong. Together I feel they strike just the right tone and create a refreshing, dry white with surprising substance.
The final estate release this year will be our 2019 Siegerrebe. It’s probably our favorite grape to grow, and certainly the tastiest to eat straight off the vine. This year’s wine is more subtle on the nose than last year’s, but it dances across your palate like a ballerina.
You can read more about our vineyard in our Visit Us section. Sign up for our newsletter below to learn more about our wines, events, sustainable practices, and more. For all questions and inquiries, please email email@example.com
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