11/22/20: Yesterday I was autographing copies of my third edition of Beyond Jefferson’s Vines at Muse Vineyards near Woodstock in the Shenandoah Valley. They are a small, dry vinifera varieties-focused winery with consistently high quality across the product line and over time. Sally Cowal and Robert Muse are the owners; Tim Rausse is the wine maker. Here are my notes on their current and soon-to-be released wines:
- ***Thalia 2019: This is a rare white Rhone blend without Viognier, just Roussanne and Marsanne, used to make white Hermitage (Thomas Jefferson’s favorite white wine). The flavor and character are quite distinctive. The nose is elegant, with subtle pear, white pepper and mineral notes. On the palate, it is dry, with pear flavors and a rich tactile mid-palate, but finishing fresh and clean. A well-made, original blend in a classic Rhone style, and a fine choice for Thanksgiving.
- **Pichet 2019: This is a fun, juicy but dry, refreshing yet quaffable unoaked red blend mostly from Cabernet Franc. The name “pichet” is the French word for “pitcher”. Aside from the regular bottle at a very affordable $18., there’s also a cute one-glass can size (187 ml), at either $6 for a single or $20 for a four-pack. Nose: juicy, fresh red and black cherries, reminiscent of gamay. Palate: dry but juicy, fruit-forward, low tannin, great cherry flavors and fresh finish. A fun red wine for warm weather quaffing and a good match with Thanksgiving fare.
- *Cabernet Franc NV This wine was just bottled and is a blend of the 2017 and 2018 vintages. There’s no bouquet since it was just bottled, but on the palate, there’s a solid cherry fruit core. It’s balanced and clean and will drink well in the near term but should be decanted. This wine will be released shortly. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the
- ***Cabernet Franc 2017: Nose of exotic baking spices, red and black cherry, and a hint of smoke. On the palate, it’s fresh and dry with vibrant cherry and raspberry fruit, no heavy or even noticeable oak, lively with a fresh finish. (Note: this will soon go off the market to age another year as the non-vintage blend comes on.)
- ***Petit Verdot 2017: a big, dark, brooding wine. Most ’17 wines are open and drinking well now but this one needs 2-3 years more aging. Nose: deep, rich black fruits with a hint of lavendar. Palate: powerful, rich and muscular but still fruit-driven and elegant with a solid core of ripe fruit, no clumsy oak and a velvet texture with nuances of oak on the finish. Balanced but rich, worth waiting for.
- ****Clio 2017: Clio is Muse’s Meritage blend, their flagship wine (now including all five red Bordeaux grapes) and this one is 40% Petit Verdot. Nose: lively bright red fruits, then some darker fruit, occuring like listening to a quintet. Palate: exquisite balance of bright fruit flavors, delicate oak, acid and tannins, and some herb and spice notes, with the base notes of Petit Verdot. Elegant and well-balanced, can drink now or hold.
- ***Nebbiolo 2016: to be released on 12/6 at a Wine Club dinner. This is the first vintage of Muse’s Nebbiolo, the signature grape of Piedmonte, and is an impressive start; only 12 cases. Those who like a wine that is fruit-driven while keeping the signature acidity and tannins will really enjoy this. Nose: a hint of autumn leaves but a trio of red fruits: cherry, raspberry and strawberry. Palate: intense bright fresh raspberry and cherry, matched by vibrant acidity. Impressive length and finish. An original, fresh and promising style that can be enjoyed now.
Ratings key: * = good, ** = very good, *** = impressive & distinctive, **** = outstanding.