Blackbird Contrarian.
Blackbird Contrarian.

I love discovering new wines and wineries, and last week I had a great opportunity to do just that.

Faulkner Warlick of White Horse hosted a wine tasting at his new Finch & Fifth restaurant in Surrey Center. We tasted six wines, none of which I had ever had before. They were outstanding.

I’m hoping we see more tastings at Finch & Fifth.

Dylan York of the Bespoke Collection.
Dylan York of the Bespoke Collection.

Dylan York, brand manager-east for the Bespoke Collection of artisanal wines, of brought limited production Blackbird, Bordeaux blends from Napa Valley, as well as a couple of inexpensive Argentine wines from Recuerdo.

The Blackbird wines are stunners, the kind of wines you lay down for a few years and gush about when you finally drink them. But the wines from Recuerdo were wonderful, too, and ready to drink now.

First the two Argentine beauties:

Recuerdo Malbec and Torrontes.
Recuerdo Malbec and Torrontes.

Recuerdo Torrontes. I think Torrontes is a greatly under appreciated grape. Primarily grown in Argentina, the grapes are full of floral aromatics and lush fruit flavors while maintaining good structure.

The Tecuerdo is a pale yellow with a citrus nose. Peaches and lemon dominate the palate. This will be nice for summer sipping, either with light food or by itself.

The grapes are grown in Valle de Famatina, La Rioja, Argentina at an altitude of 2,624 feet. The vines are 30-40 years old.

Fermentation was slow, with selected yeasts, at low temperatures. The wine then is aged in stainless steel tanks for three months, preserving the fruit intensity and lively palate. The wine sells for $14.

Recuerdo Malbec. This iconic wine of Argentina is a deep violet with aromas of lush red fruit, ripe plums and blackberries. The mouthfeel is intense with robust tannins. I liked this wine a great deal, but the Torrontes really outshone it.

The grapes are from the Uco Valley on the eastern side of the Andes Mountains in Mendoza. The region enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine a year, rocky organic soils, a good source of water and a wide fluctuation of temperatures from day to night.

The wine will be good with meat on the grill, hearty stews and strong cheese. It is 90% Malbec, 6% Merlot, 6% Cab Franc. It spends 10 months in 20% new and 80% seasoned French oak. It sells for $24.

Recuerdo means “memory” or “memento” in Spanish. As such, the Recuerdo winemaking team of Santiago Achával and Pablo Martorell passionately believe that each bottle of Recuerdo should not only represent Argentina’s native terroir but also serve as a memory of each harvest.

Drinking Blackbird on a sunny afternoon.
Drinking Blackbird on a sunny afternoon.

Now for the big boys.

Blackbird Arise is patterened after a Bordeaux Right Bank blend, with 61% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Franc and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a nice, velvety feel from the Merlot and good structure from the Cabernet Franc.

Ripe cherry dominates the aroma with hints of black pepper and vanilla. A nice mixture of blackberry and olive fills your mouth, leading to a long finish.

The grapes come from several prestigious vineyards in Napa Valley including the Blackbird Vineyard in the Oak Knoll District. This is an ideal site for Merlot with clay soils over gravel. It is a region known for cool nights, which preserve acidity in the fruit.

The wine spent 21 months in French oak barrels, 50% new and 50% seasoned. Only 158 barrels were made. The wine sells for around $50.

There’s a great story about the label, too. It shows blackbirds sitting on wires that look like musical notes. If you play them they are from the opening line to the Beatles’ song Blackbird by Paul McCartney, “Blackbird singing in the dead of night….”

Not only is it a beautiful song, but it has great meaning. McCartney said he wrote it as an homage to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. The name of the wine comes from the rest of the first verse:
“Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.”

Dylan York talks about the Blackbird wines.
Dylan York talks about the Blackbird wines.

Blackbird Illlustration. This is a Pomerol-inspired blend with 48% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 22% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a very smooth wine, with no harshness.

It opens with aromas of ripe red fruit and toffee. The first sip brings out stone fruit, cocoa and a touch of butterscotch. The wine continued to develop in my glass, with later sips showing blackberry and cherry flavors. The finish was long with nicely rounded tannins, though the wine would benefit from another year or two in the cellar.

This is an extremely complex wine and should be interesting to drink for many years to come.

The grapes came from four top Napa vineyards, including the Blackbird Vineyard. It spent 21 months in French oak barrels, 75% new, 25% seasoned. Only 548 cases were made, It sells for about $130.

Bob and Teri enjoy the wine.
Bob and Teri enjoy the wine.

Blackbird Paramour has more Cabernet Franc than the other wines, with layers of flavor. Aromas of blackberry and mint lead to a round and balanced palate. It is a nuanced wine that I would characterize as still tight. I think it will really develop in the bottle over the next 10 years or so.

The blend is 41% Cabernet Franc, 36% Merlot and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon. It spent 21 months in French oak barrels, 75% new, 25% seasoned. The winery produced 617 cases at about $130 a bottle.


Blackbird Contrarian was my favorite. It is 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Cabernet Franc and 20% Merlot. It has the wonderful black fruit flavors from the Cabernet Sauvignon and the elegant structure of the Cab Franc. The finish is long, smooth and balanced.

This is another wine that will benefit from aging. Winemaker Aaron Pott says, “This wine is gratifying now and will age gloriously with time in the cellar.”

The grapes come from four great Napa vineyards including the Blackbird estate vineyard. They spent 21 months in French oak barrels, 75% new and 25% seasoned. The winery produced 642 cases at about $130 a bottle.

The winery also makes a Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc that wasn’t available at the tasting. It’s called Arriviste and sells for about $25.

Proprietor Michael Polenske bought Blackbird Vineyards in 2003 and started turning it into an ultra-premium label. Paul Leary joined as president in 2006. In 2011, Leary
traveled to Mendoza, Argentina and established a partnership with The Vines of Mendoza to launch a new Argentinean brand, Recuerdo Wines, in the United States. and throughout the globe.

Winemaker Aaron Pott is consulting winemaker for several top wineries, including Blackbird.

From: Napa Valley
Cost: $130
Year: 2011

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