Friday, October 02, 2009

Tertulia Cellars: A Sense of Place

If you check out Wikipedia, it will tell you the Spanish name, "Tertulia" means a social gathering with literary or artistic overtones. It will also tell you that a typical tertulia in recent centuries has been a regularly scheduled event in a public place such as a bar or even a living room. It's a place where people share their recent creations, such as poetry, short stories and even artwork or songs.

Tertulia Cellars, located near the foothills of the Walla Walla Valley, certainly lives up to its name. As you come up the drive you are met with a colorful building with sections painted dark coral, bright sunflower yellow, and a warm aubergine. It's like the building sits on it's own little oasis with surrounding vineyards nearby.

Once inside the door, you understand Tertulia Cellars takes their name seriously as the room is prepared for an ongoing social gathering with a large and welcoming circular bar, waist high cocktail tables and an intimate area with couches surrounding a fireplace.

I was thrilled to meet and tour the winery and vineyards with Stevie Johnson, the new Director of Sales & Marketing (and a very gracious host), as well as meeting and visiting with Quentin Mylet, the new winemaker who had also worked with former Tertulia winemaker, Ryan Raber. It was a pleasure to taste again the wines of Tertulia Cellars and be reminded of legacy of well balanced and quality wines that Ryan Raber left behind. I am excited to see future vintages from Quentin.

What impressed me the most about the line-up of wines I tasted, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Viognier, was the diversity of varietals that Tertulia produces, such as Tempranillo, Carmenere and Malbec. Each one capturing the character, yet emphasizing the uniqueness of each.

I swooned over the Tertulia Cellars Tempranillo - 2007, a blueish-blackish wine in color with fruit sourced from Les Collines located at the Walla Walla foothills. The nose was spicy and nutty leaving the palate with flavors of dark juicy black fruits, like dark cherries and currants with hints of chocolate and coffee.

If you have never been a fan of Carmenère, then you should consider Tertulia Cellars Phinny Hill Vineyard - 2007. I think the addition of 15% Merlot, really helped to soften this wine, while still leaving the peppery characteristics that is traditionally found in Carmenère. It just isn't so "in- your-face" with pepper, making it a more food friendlier wine, while still showing off flavors of plum and dark berries.

Call me "Silly" (Hellooo Silly!), but here is my deal when I judge what makes a good Malbec: it must taste like grape jelly on graham crackers. Okay, bear with me here - it goes back to the instructions of Dr. Ann Noble, the Guru of Wine Sensory Evaluation. Dr. Noble said when trying to describe notes and flavors of wine, reach back into your memory bank of smells and tastes that may have to do with special events.

As a kid, I loved going to my grandparents house to ride the pony, feed the chickens, run the length of the horse pasture, exploring the barn and walking through their magnificent vegetable and flower gardens. Snack times after all that activity meant fresh baked cookies, but if grandma was behind in her baking, we would have graham or soda crackers with an assortment of her jellies, jams and fruit butters. For me, the taste of a good Malbec must smell and taste like grape jelly on graham crackers, like what I remember from Grandma's house.

All I need to say about the Tertulia Cellars Malbec - 2006 is, "Hellooo Grandma!"

After my visit at Tertulia Cellars, I started thinking about their name. It occurred to me after tasting their wines in their light and friendly tasting room, visiting with the staff and touring the cellar and their vineyards, that for Tertulia Cellars it means more than a social gathering of friends. Tertulia Cellars have their own sense of place in the valley. Tertulia Cellars definitely has their own terroir.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Great descriptions!