2007 Carneros Chardonnay
California: Carneros - Los Carneros (Napa)
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Mission Codename: The Succession
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Return to Operative favorite, Merryvale, this time to recover a exclusive allocation cache of their fabled Carneros Chardonnay
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Merryvale Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2007 Carneros Chardonnay
Winemakers: Sean Foster and Larry Cherubino
Winery Backgrounder: The Wine Spies enjoy multi-year relationships with many of our wineries. This allows us to experience successive vintages of the same wine. This, in turn, give us a glimpse into the evolution of the vineyard and of the winemaking team itself. We’ve had the pleasure to feature the 2005, 2006 and now the 2007 vinatages of this wine. Today’s 2007 is, by far, our favorite! Today, Agent White returns to Merryvale, where he samples and then secures an exclusive allocation of today’s superb Carneros Chardonnay.
Varietal Backgrounder: Carneros Chardonnay is now revered for its quality, elegance and smoothness. The Carneros viticultural area, a wine growing region which straddles the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, has been a great source of wine that we have featured here. Always, those wine have been of supreme quality. The cool Carneros region provides ideal growing conditions for Chardonnay and Chardonnay literally thrives there. Merryvale is a Wine Spies favorite and we are proud to bring you today’s special Carneros Chardonnay, from our friends at Merryvale Vineyards. Read Agent Whites’s tasting notes and mission report to learn more about this great Chardonnay
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Golden straw in color, with perfect clarity and glinting edges. When swirled, this wine shows a springy surface and leaves behind widely-spaced and skinny legs that move quickly down the inside of the glass
Smell – Gorgeous bright tropical fruits, with a rich minerality with flint and a hint of graphite. These great aromas a followed by a subtle earthy oak and clarified butter
Feel – Rich and round, velvety with a mouth-filling coating and brightness that starts wet, and then goes slightly dry as supple tannins make a slow appearance
Taste – Bright tropical fruit, followed quickly by fresh grannysmith apple, slate, soft citrus and subtlest butter, and soft hazelnut
Finish – Long, lush and flavorful with sweetness that goes slightly tart -and then back to sweet and coating as flavors taper off slowly
Conclusion – 2005 Merryvale Chardonnay: Great. 2006 Merryvale Chardonnay: Even better! 2007 Merryvale Chardonnay: Best yet! Our good friends at Merryvale honor us by allowing us to break this wine to the world. With better flavors, bigger aromatics and a more supple feel than prior vintages, this wine delivers a more balanced and more exciting drinking experience. You know how picky we are about white wines, so you know that if we are wild about a white, its a great wine. Way to go, Merryvale. How your wines keep getting better each year is a marvelous thing indeed!
What follows is our original mission report, in which Agent Red first infiltrated Merryvale
Merryvale hosts their own ‘Wine Component Tasting’ seminar every Saturday & Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. The fourth weekend of every month is Merryvale’s ‘Food & Wine Pairing’ seminar.
These events provided me with the perfect opportunity for some close surveillance of this respected winery. I wasted no time and signed up for both, which actually proved to be not only deeply informative from a Wine Spies intel-gathering perspective, but also from a wine drinker’s perspective. The two events were also great fun and the Merryvale winery is amazing!
The Wine Spies strive to have a low impact on the environment, but Merryvale takes this sort of responsibility to an extreme. Wherever possible, The Wine Spies use earth-friendly materials such as pulp wine shippers and recycled packing materials. We drive hybrid spy cars, keep office lights dimmed or turned off during the day and we recycle relentlessly. Merryvale does all of these things – and way more.
On arrival at the Merryvale Vineyards facility, the first thing that I noticed were the seemingly acres of solar panels covering the rooftop of their 60,000 foot building.
Once inside for the morning component tasting, I learned that Merryvale completed the installation of its 277kW solar electric system in 1996, before being green was chic.
The solar array generates enough clean electricity each day to power nearly 80 homes and will spare the air nearly 473 tons of harmful greenhouse gases annually. Over the next 30 years, the air pollution saved will be equivalent to driving over 32 million miles.
The winery’s solar system will provide 90-100% of the winery’s electricity needs on an annual basis for the company’s 60,000 square foot building.
Merryvale’s foremost reason for installing the array is to utilize green energy. This is an effort that we applaud and one that we are happy to be seeing at more and more wineries these days.
The component tasting and the pairing seminar were both exceptional and I recommend these for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of wine. While the winery and the classes were great, far more impressive are Merryvale’s incredible wines.
The Merryvale Vineyards winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
Merryvale Vineyards, Member, Napa Valley Vintners
About The Wine:
Our 2007 Carneros Chardonnay is concentrated and intense in style. Aromas of hazelnut, tropical fruit and ripe apple are framed by crisp minerality and sweet toasty oak. The wine is rich and creamy with a lingering finish. Our favorite pairing is cracked lobster with drawn butter and fresh lemon.
Winemaking: Sourced from our estate vineyard at Stanly Ranch, with a small amount from Hyde Vineyard and Silverado Stanly Ranch, the fruit for our signature Chardonnay is carefully sorted, whole cluster pressed and barrel fermented. The wine spends 14 months in French Oak (42% new), with the first seven months on primary lees, and is stirred monthly until blending.
Vintage Notes: The 2007 vintage was one of the best in recent memory. After a normal bud break, the valley experienced mild weather through the growing season with a slightly cooler summer and warm September. This climate resulted in slow, even ripening with a crop just slightly smaller than normal, and the highly desired small berry size. Winemakers across the valley are very excited about the 2007 vintage.
About The Winery:
The first winery built in the Napa Valley following the repeal of Prohibition, Merryvale is located in the heart of America’s premier wine region. Graced with a European fountain and formal grounds, the historic winery is ideally located just 1/4 mile south of downtown St. Helena, Napa Valley — adjacent to renowned Tra Vigne restaurant and within easy walking distance of many other restaurants and shops.
In this celebrated home, the spirit of great winemaking thrives in the care of owner Jack W. Schlatter and his son, René Schlatter, Senior Winemakers Sean Foster and Larry Cherubino.
By maintaining the founding vision — To capture the essence of the region’s noble vineyards in rich, complex, supple wines rivaling the best in the world — Merryvale has earned international acclaim for wines of outstanding quality.
How we make wine:
Meticulous, Painstaking, Passionate Winemaking
The essence of the Napa Valley — a verdant parquet of diverse soils and microclimates that is home to some of the world’s greatest vineyards. Merryvale seeks to capture this essence with thoughtful attention to each of the thousand steps along the way to rich, complex, elegant wines.
The process begins with the careful selection of vineyards — by site, by block, even by row — to find the areas best suited to growing of the highest quality winegrapes for the specific varietal. Each aspect of the land — including microclimate, soil type, drainage, degree of slope and sun exposure – is evaluated for its contribution.
Merryvale’s grape purchase agreements include control over vineyard practices. The winemaking team carefully works hand in hand with each grower to manage all aspects of the vineyard — from pruning, irrigation, leaf thinning, hedging, shoot positioning, crop thinning, to the time of harvest.
Balanced crop levels ensure Merryvale’s grapes a greater concentration of flavors at lower sugar levels.
In red grapes, this will also facilitate the more rapid maturation of tannins, translating into rich, round wines with intense aromas and flavors, and more supple tannins.
Harvest time is determined by flavor and tannin maturity, not by sugar level alone. Careful attention is paid to all the grape and vine characteristics that indicate full fruit maturity has been reached. Skin color, absence of herbaceous flavors, color of the seeds, texture of the pulp and condition of the leaves are all important clues in determining stage of development.
Merryvale grapes are hand picked and sorted first in the field and sorted again here at the winery to remove leaves, substandard fruit and over- and under-ripe clusters. To protect the fruit from being damaged or bruised by excess weight during harvest, Merryvale grapes are placed in small half-ton boxes.
Vineyards: Merryvale Stanly Ranch Estate, Hyde Vineyard, Silverado-Stanly Ranch
Winemaking: Hand sorted, whole-cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented
Aging: 14 months in French Oak (42% new)
Alcohol: 14.5% by volume
Release Date: April, 2009
Production: 2,215 cases