Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyard has gradually expanded their product line, and now offer five wines over $50; two varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot), and three blends: Bundoran Blue $60, Wild Common, $55 (both red Meritage blends with someTannat), and just released this fall, Wild Acre Reserve Blend, Monticello, from the very good 2017 vintage. The blend is 60% Tannat, 40% Cabernet Franc, and has a vineyard designation (Grapelawn); the arial photo of the vineyard on the label is the one visitors look out onto from the tasting room veranda.

I was glad proprietor Dean Andrews decided to hold this wine back until it had matured enough. The wine was aged in a mix of new and old French oak for two years, then aged like Rioja Gran Reserva another two years in the bottle. That’s a lot of delayed gratification, but it was worth it!

There are still a few 2017 reds here and there, but many Virginia wineries have sold through both 2017-2019 vintages, and are on to 2020 and even 2021 for current releases, so it’s a real treat to taste a top 2017 red blend that is only starting to be ready to drink.

The blend of Tannat and Cabernet Franc is both original and bold; I believe this is the only Virginia blend of these two grapes I have tasted. The color is opaque and dark with a bright ruby rim. The nose is closed, and takes a long time to open; over the next year, it should be decanted for at least an hour. On the nose, hints of ripe black fruits, elegant, no big new oak, but it took an hour to open. Then, exotic baking spices along with the ripe black fruits, hints of clean forest floor, and cocoa nibs.

On the palate, this wine is dense and texturally rich, but smooth and full, not coarse. As with the nose, it takes an hour for flavors to open at this point. Then, an explosion of ripe black fruits; plum, cherry and briar fruits, with huge spice and pepper notes. Tannins are firm, but smooth, and the wine finishes fresh and clean with no coarseness or obvious oakiness.Original, stylish and excellent, but built for the long-term; needs another 3-5 years to fully mature but can be enjoyed now with an hour of decanting. A great Virginia red for pairing with fine cuisine on a winter’s night.

Rating: *****

Ratings key: * = good, ** = very good, *** = excellent, **** = exceptional, + = given rating plus, → = will increase in quality with time.