TN: 2018 Mount Alto Manteo Nelson Cabernet (Virginia)

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Craig Pichette
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TN: 2018 Mount Alto Manteo Nelson Cabernet (Virginia)

#1 Post by Craig Pichette » November 21st, 2020, 5:56 am

I'm not a fan of Virginia wine; it's almost universally overpriced insipid garbage. The vineyards are mostly planted in clay in the valley floors and the climactic conditions are less than ideal.

However, I met a guy named Rob Burgholzer at a tasting in Richmond a few years ago. His day job is a water scientist for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. He talked about looking all over the state and finding a site with soils and climactic conditions where he thought one could produce quality Bdx varietals. I was curious, so I visited him at the vineyard one weekend. It was a pretty remote site on a hillside with very rocky loam soils facing into a canyon with a breeze providing airflow. It was first or second leaf when I visited, but, in spite of my skepticism about VA wines, I thought he and his partners might have a shot at doing something interesting because of the site. I signed up for the mailing list and occasionally ran into Rob at tastings in Richmond and checked in on their progress.

So, they just made their first release, the 2018. I received the bottles earlier in the week and committed infacticide last night. It was decanted for about three hours. 91% Cab Sauv and 9% Petit Verdot. About $30. 13.5% abv. 275 cases produced.

Upon opening, it smelled fresh, ripe, and pure. Not particularly oaky. The color was very appropriate for Cabernet. Frankly, it smelled more appropriately Cab-like than any VA wine I had previously had. It was pure Cab without any trace of pyrazenes or overt winemaking manipulation.

I came back a couple of hour later. Smooth and elegant in the mouth. The oak and tannings are integrated. Very pure cab fruit profile on the front palate. Smooth and warm texture. Medium mouthfeel with nice roundness and texture. The Petit Verdot really jumps out on the back palate, providing a nice bass element and long finish. I think the midpalate is a little thin, suggesting to me that it could maybe use a little Merlot in the blend, but it may be a function of young vines and I seem to recall that 2018 was a relatively wet year.

This is a really, really good Cabernet. If I had it in a blind tasting of VA wines, I would guess it was a ringer from Napa that someone slipped into the lineup. I'm not going to claim I've had every wine produced in Virginia or even a significant portion of them, but I've tasted all of the ones that are supposed to be good that have been released over the last three years or so. This is by far the best IMHO. My expectations of VA wine are extremely low, but this is objectively an excellent wine. They only ship to VA and DC, so access is pretty limited. I think it's a steal at $30.

Disclaimer: as noted above, I've met one of the owners and socialized with him a few times.

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