2020 Secret Ingredient Malbec
94 pts, James Suckling
While we are primarily focused on Cabernet Sauvignon, our love affair with Bordeaux varietals led us to plant the remaining four classic Bordeaux blending grapes, including Malbec. In 2010, we harvested our first Malbec from Bell Mountain Vineyard. Although we only had enough to fill one barrel, it was our favorite wine that year. Continuing our tradition of experimentation, we used a little of the Malbec to add to our other blends, and we marveled that it miraculously made everything better. It became our “secret ingredient”. When we finally had enough Malbec to make into its own bottling, we knew we had the perfect name – Secret Ingredient.
We reserve some of our most special parcels to ferment directly in French oak barrels. This allows for more direct oak integration that creates more lush and silky tannins, perfect for our fresh and bold Malbec. In 2020 we fermented 20% of the Malbec in barrels.
The 2020 Secret Ingredient is layered with licorice, fennel, black pepper, and tobacco leaf. The palate has a dense sweet floral core to go alongside the earthy richness and a medley of spices of cinnamon and ginger. Long luscious tannins shine through with the fresh uplifting acidity to make you reach for another sip.
With half the average rainfall during the winter and spring, there was very minimal vegetative growth. Cooler spring temperatures and a spurt of heavy rain during flowering led to a very light crop. The combination of these both created concentration, depth, and substantial density in the fruit. Several short heat spikes and a smaller crop load created optimal conditions for early ripening. We were fortunate to pick everything early, escaping any smoke damage from the devastating wildfires throughout California. Although one of our smallest vintages in history at Bell Mountain, this is offset by the exceptional quality of our 2020 wines.