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. They, too, are deserving of a noteworthy title, as the creative women who run the winery are (as far as we know) the only in the world to create a unique “TMZ” blend — Tannat blended with Merlot and Zinfandel (the latter varietal being the unexpected ingredient). And so it is high time we take a look at the single-varietal expression of Tannat, straight out of the country the grape now calls home.
Sourced from the rugged terroir of the Vaca Mountain foothills, the consistency of quality fruit the Shafer family harvests year after year is, indeed, persistent, continuing, nonstop, never-ending, interminable, unceasing, endless — relentless. But, as proprietor Doug Shafer says, the “soul” of this wine comes from the winery’s long time winemaker, Elias Fernandez, whose tireless attention to detail seems to create a new level of quality with each vintage. “And so Relentless emerged as a testament to both a person and a place.”
Founder John Shafer wasn’t always a wine country cowboy. At 50 years old, Shafer left his business shoes and commuter trains behind in Chicago, trading them in for a pair of boots and a TD-9 tractor. Without a green thumb to speak of, he picked up his family and purchased his first piece of Napa Valley property. On that property were old sheds and ancient farming equipment — among them an International Harvester tractor from the 1950s. One of his first challenges was learning how to drive the rickety old beast — but he loved every moment of it.
The TD-9 proprietary red blend is made each year with that same spirit — making the best of what you have and enjoying the process. “Any time you try something new, you take a gamble,” says winery president and John’s son Doug Shafer. “But the story of TD-9 is all about risk-taking and a sense of adventure – it was there at our founding and it’s part of our DNA today.” (more…)