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PNJ Wine Time Bill Carlson: Changes at Marietta Cellars yield bold wines

PNJ Wine Time Bill Carlson: Changes at Marietta Cellars yield bold wines

PNJ.com

Bill Carlson

A wise man once said, “if you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” And changes have come to one of my favorite wineries in Sonoma, Marietta Cellars.

For more than 30 years, Marietta’s hallmark has been making big, flavorful red wines using terrific local fruit. Proprietor and Winemaker Chris Bilbro worked tirelessly to establish his wines as among Sonoma’s elite, and was a pioneer in blending different grape varietals together and using grapes from multiple vintages.

So what are the changes at Marietta? For starters, Chris Bilbro’s sons, Jake and Scott, have purchased the winery from their father and are now in charge. They have also purchased an additional 270 acres of vineyards, which will give them more fruit to control.

To me, the biggest change will be that now all of Marietta’s wine will be blends. The old Vine Red and Cuvée Angeli will remain but there will be no Cabernet, Petite Sirah or Zinfandel. Instead, they will produce two new blends called Christo and Armé. And like their old Vine Red, the wines will not be from one vintage, but multiple.

A few months ago, Jake Bilbro was in Pensacola and explained their new wines, which hadn’t hit the market yet. I was hesitant because I really loved the three wines they were eliminating. Jake assured me the two new blends, one a Rhone style and the other a Cabernet blend with Bordeaux varietals, would be dynamite.

As they say, the proof is in the pudding. I just tasted the Christo Lot 1 and Armé Lot 1, and was blown away. The fruit has never been better and the blends are harmonious and well thought out.

The Christo Lot 1 ($18.49) is a Rhone-style blend composed mostly of Syrah with Grenache, Petite Sirah and Viognier blended in. This is a big, inky purple wine that’s voluptuous, but still maintains balance and finesse. I like how the Rhone varietals give it complexity while the richness comes from the sun-drenched California vineyards. As the wild boar on the label suggests, this wine would be perfect with the assertive flavors of wild game.

The Armé Lot 1 ($21.49) is 88 percent Cabernet Sauvignon with a bit of Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot thrown in the mix. Lots of raspberry fruit with notes of licorice and cassis, this is a wine you can enjoy now or cellar for 15 years. This complex blend would be the ideal accompaniment to roasted prime rib. There are a whole lot of California Cabernet blends that cost three times as much as this, and are not nearly as good.

I like the changes taking place at Marietta Cellars. One thing that won’t change is their commitment to quality while maintaining affordable pricing. All the wines Marietta Cellars makes are available at Seville’s Wine and Gift Shoppe.

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