Calistoga has long been famous for its Merlot production and Larkmead gladly continues that legacy. Historically a multi-variety blend, Firebelle has the soft, plush texture of Merlot, but with some added structure from its companion Bordeaux varieties. Merlot at Larkmead, planted on rich loam soils full of clay and gravel, also tends to act a bit like Cabernet. Knowing this, the wine is allowed to express its density, weight, and power while maintaining its attractive aroma and flavor profiles.
This wine pays homage to the legendary firefighter - patroness of all San Francisco firemen - philanthropist, and original winery owner Lillie Hitchcock Coit who also happened to name Larkmead. The famous Coit Tower in San Francisco also has the honor of being named after her as the city’s tribute. Firebelle Lil’ left San Francisco and Napa Valley a considerable legacy when she died in the late 1920s.
Firebelle found its stride in 2016 due to the year’s more moderate growing conditions. A slightly longer hang-time helped draw out the aroma profile on this wine, leading with red cherry and apple skin before descending gracefully to darker tones of plum and blueberries. Hints of incense and cola dance around semi-sweet chocolate notes as the perfume finishes with a gorgeous integration. The complex aromas stem from the Cabernet Sauvignon while the palate of this wine is excitingly Merlot – open and supple, blue and resonant. The wine is broad and builds density in the mouth before it drops its fruit core for a dusty, bittersweet chocolate and cherry finish that bodes well for the ageability of this wine.
An agile and buoyant wine, the 2016 Firebelle is easy to drink right now but will benefit by stripping its youthful skin and expose some of its secondary and tertiary notes that will begin when the wine reaches 5+ years post vintage. Drink now and for 15-20 years.