Inky, concentrated, luscious ... If I was blind tasting the 2010 Shelburne Marquette Reserve, I might be fooled into thinking this wine came from old vines, or had some Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah grapes in the blend. Apparently, I’m not the only one: At this year’s International Cold Climate Wine Competition in Minnesota, a few judges wrongly guessed that there were California grapes in the powerful red that eventually won “Best of Show” over the other hundreds of cold-hardy red wines they were assessing.
There weren’t. The winning wine was made entirely from cold-hardy Marquette grapes, and those were grown on 4-year-old vines in the sandy, loamy soils of Shelburne. 2010 had a warm and sunny summer, and the fruit had reached an ideal brix, or sugar level, by the time it was harvested. Winemaker Ken Albert chose to age all of the Marquette from the vintage sur lie — that is, on its spent yeasts — to add roundness. It was a deft move; last year, the 2010 Marquette picked up ICCWC’s Best of Show, too.
Albert set aside two barrels of those 2010 grapes for the vineyard’s Reserve wine, aging it for a little longer — 15 months total — in oak. The result is an enormously round wine so concentrated that it practically stains the glass, and one that likes being allowed to breathe for a few hours. You barely need to get your nose near the glass to pick up powerful aromas of black cherry and touches of cardamom and earth. On the palate, it’s turbocharged and full bodied, with warming spices such as pepper and cinnamon layered over dark, almost stewed fruit. Hints of blueberry and mint linger during the exceptionally long finish. A lively spine of acid keeps the wine alive, and it also has enough gentle tannin to let you put it aside for a few years.
Only a few bottles from the original 51 cases are still available at the winery, and that’s kind of a shame, because it would be gratifying to see the 2010 Marquette Reserve end up on local restaurant wine lists as an example of a premium Vermont wine. You’d do well to snap up one or several before it’s gone.
Shelburne Vineyard 2010 Marquette Reserve, $29.95 for a 750ml bottle. Available from Shelburne Vineyard, 6308 Shelburne Road. Info, 985-8222. shelburnevineyard.com