The People

We have now featured four Aquilini wine labels, including this one. We have already told the story of the owner, Luigi Aquilini, multiple times; for this wine, we will share the story of one of three consulting winemakers who helped Aquilini continue to perform as a top producer in the industry.

Philippe Melka has the rare combination of talent and good fortune to be a winemaker who started at the top: his first jobs out of school were at Petrus and Dominus. His resumé has remained storied, with over 30 years of experience with renowned wineries, primarily in Bordeaux and Napa Valley. Napa’s soils proved to be a revelation, so he traveled, dividing time between soil study and winemaking at renowned wineries Badia a Coltibuono in Chianti and Chittering Estate in Australia. In 1995, having returned to Napa full-time, Philippe founded Atelier Melka, where he has served as a winemaking consultant for some of the most highly regarded properties in the US and worldwide. 

The experience of the winemakers makes it no surprise that Aquilini Wines has achieved success in a remarkably short time. One of Aquilini’s first bottlings, the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, scored a provisional 95+ points on the Robert Parker Wine Advocate scale.

The Juice

The 2018 Aquilini Family Blend encompasses three hand-picked varieties – 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, and 8% Petit Verdot. Each varietal contributes a special quality: a delicious combination of pleasure from the Cab, lushness from the Merlot, and bounce from the Petit Verdot. This beautiful Bordeaux blend from the Red Mountain AVA will age gracefully, but it’s so delicious now. It was aged for 26 months in new French oak barrels. 

The 2018 Aquilini Family Blend received the same care and winemaking treatments as their Cabernet Sauvignon. As they do for all of their wines, they make several harvest passes to ensure the grapes are picked only when perfectly ripe, with grapes for the Family Blend all hand-picked. For this wine, a greater amount of Merlot was added to soften the structure and provide more generosity to the wine; a touch of Petit Verdot adds further complexity and spice to the Family Blend. Though designed for earlier consumption than the flagship

Cabernet Sauvignon, the Family Blend, will age gracefully; it can reward the patient consumer over a ten-year or longer aging curve.

The Dirt

The Red Mountain AVA is blessed with a confluence of growing conditions that winemakers dream of. Red Mountain quickly made a name in the far corner of Washington’s Yakima Valley by consistently producing award-winning, 95 to 100-point vintages.

At 4,040 total acres (1,630 ha), Red Mountain is one of Washington State’s smallest appellations. It is also one of the warmest, with broad, southwest-facing slopes that soak up the summer sun.

Due to these warm temperatures, red grape varieties dominate, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes up 60% of plantings. The area’s warm temperatures and persistent winds lead to small berry sizes and thicker skins. Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignons tend to be full-bodied, dark, and dense with firm tannins that age exceptionally well.

The Taste

By adding more Merlot than prior vintages, the 2018 Family Blend has a deliciously flamboyant character. Expressive aromas fill the glass with cherries, raspberries, crème brûlée, and fresh garden herbs; subtle nuances of sweet oak spice, leather, and graphite are layered beneath. The wine offers generous volume and texture, with dusty tannins fading into a silky finish.

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