Understanding the 2017 Reserves from The Williamsburg Winery


To reserve something is to save it. To retain it for future use.

For our wine lovers out there, you know what it means to reserve – to save – a special bottle for a special occasion. Chances are you have something on your shelf, in your cellar or tucked away somewhere special for just that – something special.

In winemaking in many areas all over the world, to call a wine a Reserve means something specific. Some special and legal, if you will.

Take Spanish wines, for example. The terms Reserva and Gran Reserva, under Spanish wine law, denote wines that must be aged for a minimum number of years before release, among other requirements. This is also the case in many other wine regions around the world. Essentially, if you know the laws in the respective countries, you know EXACTLY what it means for the wine when you see the term Reserve on the label.

In the U.S., though, there is no legal definition or requirement for reserve wine. Winemakers in the U.S. typically put the label Reserve on those they feel are their best.

And we all know that “best” is a completely subjective term.

While we can’t define what “best” is or means for all wines made here in the U.S., we can tell you what is means here at The Williamsburg Winery.

What do we consider our “best?”

At The Williamsburg Winery, reserve wines are reserved – double play on words intended here – for only the finest vintages, of which the quality is determined by our winemaker.

Red wines under the reserve label then must be aged a minimum of 16 months in oak, and bottle aged another several months prior to release.

Distilled down, it’s the best quality grapes from only the best vintages.

In 2019, The Williamsburg Winery released four reserves and an Adagio from the 2017 vintage, the best vintage winemaker Matthew Meyer said he’s ever seen in Virginia.

“A mild winter and a warmer spring were the perfect conditions for an early bud break that year,” he said. “The summer months were a bit warmer, approximately five degrees on average, and not as much rain also helped to create a great vintage with an abundance of grapes. The humidity seemed to be a bit less as well helping to create very good growing conditions. In the fall we did not see too much rain and the weather was very mild to warm.”

The 2017 Gabriel Archer Reserve includes 41% Petit Verdot, 40% Cabernet Franc and 19% Merlot. Meyer said, “this is an old-world style wine offering many layers of black and red cherries, raspberry, strawberry, blueberry which then go into a more aged fruit of figs, prunes and dates. Next to the fruit is some black olives, truffles, a touch of the forest floor and a hint of graphite. Behind these layers is a soft spice note of cinnamon/nutmeg. The oak is well structured with the fruit and earth notes. The tannins are big but very approachable. Overall the wine is very well balanced with a lot of old-world charm. This should age beautifully!

The 2017 Petit Verdot Reserve, Meyer said, “is a truly opulent wine showing bold rich layers of blackberry, dark cherry, currant and cranberry. The next layer shows some cocoa and vanilla. There are also some pleasant earth notes of suede, olives and a hint of eucalyptus. All these layers are wrapped in exquisite tannins and oak creating a wine with beautiful harmony. The finish lingers on the pallet for a long time while the fruit and oak embrace beautifully.”

The 2017 Merlot Reserve, Meyer said, “is another great representation of the vintage. The bright, red fruit aspects of cherries, raspberry, strawberry, rhubarb and cassis are well integrated with some quieter elements of dried fruits. All the fruits are generously covered in a rich layer of chocolate. Woven together with the fruit and chocolate is an earthiness that also has a touch of minerality and vanilla, accentuated with a soft, perfume character. The finish is fruit forward with the oak and tannins well balanced and fresh.”

It will drink nicely now and for the next decade or more, Meyer said.

The 2017 Trianon – Cabernet Franc Reserve, which includes 77% Cabernet Franc and 23% Petit Verdot, “is beautifully balanced with all the upfront fruit qualities and earthy character one would expect from a Cabernet Franc,” Meyer said. It “finishes very clean with soft tannins and well-integrated oak. There is a touch of brightness on the finish that creates a pleasant lingering effect with the fresh fruit.”

This may be the best Trianon to date and we suggest trying with some lamb – preferably from our friends at Border Springs Farm.

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The Williamsburg Winery
5800 Wessex Hundred
Williamsburg, VA

757.229.0999
wine@wmbgwine.com