Review: Fortaleza Winter Blend (2019, 2020)
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Fortaleza Winter Blend
Recently, Fortaleza posts have gotten some pushback on social media. From insta-flips and ubiquitous tequila porn, even to questions of "Over-hyped?" - one thing is for certain, Fortaleza has separated itself from the pack. Cascahuin releases may sell out just as quickly (or more) but they're still an insider pick. Fortaleza seems to have claimed the role of, "If you're only gonna get one bottle of tequila this year..." And why not? It's made traditionally with integrity. And for my palate and money, it out drinks most of its competition. I have no problem going out of my way to grab a Fortaleza special release, and there's less and less these days that I go out of my way for.
Both releases start with Fortaleza Still Strength blanco. The 2019 was barreled in American (6 mo) and French oak (11 mo). The 2020 was barreled in American beer barrels (6 mo), American whiskey barrels (6 mo), and the French oak barrels used for 2019 Winter Blend (10 mo). Both were bottled at a higher proof than the standard reposado.
Fortaleza Winter Blend 2019 - 45.7%
Nose: Baked, earthy agave. Orange liqueur. Caramel. Wintergreen. Light oak.
Flavor: Orange. Pineapple. Caramel. Nougat. Mint toothpaste.
Structure: Balanced. Slow. Full. Long and rolling. Seamless transitions.
Alcohol Integration: Perfect.
Score: 8 (Stash One) This is fine-tuned and impressive. The orange liqueur note is fantastic. The complexity is delicate. Much fruitier than 2020. More traditional for sure. Drinks like an old-school repo.
Fortaleza Winter Blend 2020 - 46%
Nose: This is a big nose. Melted garlic butter and green olives. Grainy and yeasty. Light oak. Less fruit than the 2019, but richer and more expressive. Really in love with this nose despite usually favoring fruit forward profiles.
Flavor: Butter. Olives. Agave. Grain. Malt. Beer hops bitterness. Oak. Digs back into the olives and buttery agave notes on the way back down. Rich caramel surfaces. Some late yeast.
Structure: Dynamic. Thick and rich up front. Then it shoots high and plays a lot of top notes. Before it plays on all levels for the finish.
Alcohol Integration: Loses its grip a little bit on the midpalate when all those top notes play. A drop or two of water evens it out.
Score: 8 (Stash One) 2019 is more traditional and balanced, and I enjoy the fruit that comes through. 2020 is bolder and more unique. Thicker mouthfeel. More expressive on the nose, more complex and clear in the finish. Trade off is that the mid-palate is rougher.
I love how different these are. Impressive to maintain this kind of quality across such wildly different profiles. I'll definitely buy the ticket for whatever they're rolling out in 2021 - probably even go out of my way.
You May Also Dig:
Cabo Wabo Reposado - (older NOM 1467) - for that orange note in the 2019 WB.
Fortaleza Blanco 100-B - for all the buttery, briny notes in the 2020 WB.
10 - Reevaluate The Budget
9 - Stash Two (If Able)
8 - Stash One (At The Right Price)
7 - Highly Recommend It To Strangers
6 - Solid - Above Average
5 - Acceptable For The Situation
4 - Not Vocally Complaining
3 - Anything Else To Drink?
2 - Nothing Nice To Say
1 - Drain Pour