Only 24 cases were made, and the wine (at the top) is a real beauty, rich and floral with a sunny touch of color. It's mostly Merlot, bolstered with 5% Malbec and Petit Verdot. The alcohol is surprisingly high--15.2%. And the price is surprisingly low, $18.
"It kept me on my toes," says David Vondrasek of his experiment with yeast inoculation when making the wine.
Brothers David (at right above) and William Vondrasek are Artisan's owners and winemakers. They work out of a site in Paso Robles and buy grapes from just two vineyards in the area.
Artisan's first sales to the public were the 2012 vintage. However, the brothers have been making wine since 2001 and grew up in an Italian family with a home-winemaking tradition.
These upstart newbies do everything themselves. "We are so hands on, we don't let anyone touch our wines," David says.
They do their own promoting too, like the day they brought their wines to Hotel Angeleno in West Los Angeles for a food and wine pairing. Laura Scollan, chef of West Restaurant in the hotel, put together the menu.
Here's the dish that went with the rosé--seared scallop with cider glaze on parsnip puree accompanied by roasted tricolor cauliflower.
Next up was the 2012 Merlot, notable for its big bouquet. In making wine we "get as much out of the grape as possible," David says.
Its companion was boned organic chicken stuffed with mushroom mousse and prosciutto, which was poached, pan-seared and served on sweet potato puree. Surprisingly, the Merlot went well with the puree. The sweetness did not kill the flavor.
Wine photos can be boringly the same, but here is one more, because I fell in love with this wine. It's the 2012 Malbec. Deeply colored and tinged with purple, silky smooth and soft, it could rival any Malbec I tasted during travels in Argentina.
However, it's not an attempt to copy anything Argentine. "I don't think I've ever had the best Argentine Malbecs," David says. And he makes wine from another point of view anyway, explaining, "I do have the California palate."
There were only 37 cases of the 2012 Malbec, which will rise to perhaps 100 cases for the 2014 vintage.
The last dish, boneless braised beef short rib on mashed Okinawan purple sweet potatoes, went with a more assertive wine, the inky dark Petite Sirah 2012. "I like really dark, intense wines," David says.
Next up for Artisan Uprising is the release of the 2013 wines, flavored like the others with unstoppable enthusiasm. Both brothers have day jobs. Artisan is "a paycheck to paycheck operation," William says. And David adds, "We're pretty sure were not going to get rich doing this," and you sense that they don't really care.
Check Artisan's website for wines that you can order. Production is so small that you won't find them at your neighborhood wine shop.