In vino felicitas. In wine there is happiness.

In vino felicitas. In wine there is happiness. There is also truth, as we have been reminded, and one of the truths in my life is to make wine. I conceived the Ilaria label to share with you the geographical, cultural, intellectual and historical aspects of wine.   

An excellent domestic Malbec by Ilaria. Ilaria is Italian for happy and cheerful and is the personal label from winemaker Anna Monticelli.  Anna is a graduate of the UC Davis enology and viticulture program. She started her career doing a harvest in Bordeaux at Cheval Blanc, follow by assistant winemaker at Seavey Vineyards in Napa then onto assistant winemaker at Bryant Family for four years.  She is the current winemaker at Pina and consults on a few other projects as well as making her own person label Ilaria (named after her daughter).

Anna’s goal for Ilaria is “to produce small lot wines that will stand as testaments to my belief that fine wine comes from the earth, its sense of place a key component in shaping its character.”  She sources the grapes for her Malbec from the Dr. Reid Vineyard in Coombsville in the southeast corner of Napa. The earth is comprised of rocky volcanic soils. Malbec clone 595 is planted on 110R rootstock in this small 2 acre parcel. Dr. Michael Reid and his crew tend to this small hillside vineyard. The Coombsville AVA benefits from cooler San Pablo bay temperatures which allows the grape to hang longer on the vine. The result, in a warm vintage like 2012, becomes a wine with incredibly dark color without being overly heavy or cloy. Personally I usually find the fruit profile from Coombsville to be more blue style fruits rather than the red or black fruits from further north in the valley. I think Robert Parker hits it right on the head saying that the Ilaria Malbec “is one of the finest examples of Malbec I have ever tasted from Napa”.


2012 Ilaria Malbec Dr. Reid Vineyard, Napa Valley – $39/b

This Malbec had no trouble with color extraction, it is jet black with a tinge of purple on the hue. The nose is full of herbaceous and floral qualities with notes of violets, blueberries, roasted herbs, and a touch of cracked pepper. The palate is rich and sturdy, but soft at the same time, similar flavors follow though with secondary notes of tarragon and new leather lead to a soft dry finish. 

Wine Spectrum 93+: The 2012 Ilaria Malbec bursts with aromas of huckleberry compote and black cherry followed by subtle undertones of spice and toasted oak. This dark and mysterious wine has an amazingly supple and voluptuous mouthfeel that builds to a sleek and polished finish. 95% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. 425 cases produced. 

Robert Parker 92: A challenge to high elevation Argentinean Malbec, Ilaria’s 2012 Malbec Dr. Reid Vineyard is a blend of 95% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon that spent 22 months in 50% new French oak. It reveals lots of chocolate, espresso roast, blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Full-bodied and opulent, this is one of the finest examples of Malbec I have ever tasted from Napa. Drink it over the next 7-10 years.

Bret Barrett is a Senior Wine Advisor with the Wine Spectrum in Northern California.  Bret joined the Wine Spectrum with over 15 years of experience in the food, wine, and customer service industry with more than 10 of those years focused primarily on wine and wine service.  He has been a Manager and Sommelier for a AAA Four Diamond French Restaurant in Virginia, creating and managing a Wine Spectator’s Award Excellence wine list.  Continuing to fuel his passion for wine, he moved to California, where he managed a wine retail shop and tasting bar in Lake Tahoe, CA.  With a desire to excel in wine, he successfully completed the second level examination from the Court of Master Sommeliers, achieving the title of Certified Sommelier.  Bret currently lives in Kenwood CA with a wonderful family, two young children and two dogs.

“Wine is my love, and the greatest thing about living in beautiful wine country, is sharing my love for wine and everything wine country has to offer, with you.  I hope you enjoy my thoughts and please feel free to reach out and contact me if you would like to learn more about our wines or myself.  I look forward to hearing from you.” – Bret Barrett

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