Awhile back I did a close up look at Tannat in my feature Let’s Talk (and Taste) Tannat. Here, I focused on Tannats coming out of California and Oregon because, well, as a West Coaster, that’s what I have access to. The truth is, however, that Tannat is somewhat the “heritage grape” of Uruguay — a region I’ve only recently began to explore through various media tasting events. After reading my take on Tannat, I was quickly put into contact with Artesana, a boutique estate winery located in the Canelones region of Uruguay.
Founded in 2007 by American Blake Heinemann and under the dual, female winemaking talents of Analía Lazaneo and Valentina Gati, Artesana focuses on small-lot wine productions of Tannat, Tannat blends, and Zinfandel from the estate’s Las Brujas vineyard. The even smaller production of Merlot is used exclusively for their signature red blend, affectionately referred to as “TMZ.” And while there may be more than a few Tannat-based blends (and certainly other more popular blends that utilize a small percentage of Tannat), Artesana is the only producer that creates this precise mixture.
Being a California native, a graduate of UC Santa Cruz, and a regular ground-stomper of Monterey County, I’m amazed I’m only now learning about Big Sur Vineyards. But, to be fair, though the winery takes the name of a famous stretch of California coast, it’s a boutique, family-run operation.
Husband and wife duo Lenora Carey and Richard Gebhardt moved to the area back in 1983 becoming purveyors of lavender, olive and citrus trees, crafting essential oils and soaps in addition to selling their fresh produce. But it wasn’t long until they became enthused about what kind of grape varieties grew well in the area. Lovers of Rhone varietals, they picked and pressed the grapes of neighbors for many years — namely Grenache, Syrah, and Petit Sirah. And so it was, when they blended these three together, the “Big Sur Red” was born.
Flora Springs creates beautifully balanced red blends that could knock the socks off of even the most discerning wine drinker. But the winery also knows how to have some fun. Each year, the winemaking team creates a unique Halloween-themed wine in honor of their “Ghost Winery” in St. Helena. Apparently the historic stone cellar, built in 1885, has a few — shall we say — lingering guests.
The Flora Springs 2013 Ghost Winery Red Blend, available through the winery’s website, comes in three different labels, designed by Virginia-based artist Wes Freed. While technically “Halloween-themed,” something about Freed’s artwork this year just said “Dia de los Muertos” to me so…