2009 Carneros Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir •Stanly Ranch Vineyard
California: Carneros - Los Carneros (Napa)
What we say
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Mission Codename: Eat, Drink and Be Merryvale
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Operative favorite, Merryvale, this time to recover a cache of their fabled Carneros Pinot Noir
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Merryvale Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2009 Carneros Pinot Noir
Winemakers: Sean Foster and Larry Cherubino
Backgrounder: We had the great fortune to be able to bring you Merryvale’s 2006, 2007 and 2008 Carneros Pinot Noir, so as soon as we received intel that 2009 was about to be released, we dispatched Agent Red to the winery, to secure an exclusive allotment for our Operatives.
Regional Backgrounder: Some of our favorite California Pinot Noir comes from the Carneros viticultural area, a winegrowing region which straddles the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. The cool Carneros region provides ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Pinot thrives here. Merryvale is a Wine Spies favorite and we are proud to bring you today’s very special limited-production wine. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report to learn more about this fantastic Pinot Noir.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – A lovely burgundy with bright ruby red reflections through its clear core and along its edges. When swirled, slow and fat legs cling to the side of the glass before slowly descending to the wine below.
Smell – Invitingly fresh aromas of red fruit meld with smokey and earthy undertones. Hints of black tea, floral rose petals, cola, sweet spice and toasted and creamy vanilla adds complexity and while the nose alone is pretty enough to linger, it begs for a sip.
Feel – Velvet smooth and supple on the tongue with finely textured tannins and lively but well balanced acidity and mineral notes that don’t overpower the fresh fruit flavors.
Taste – Well balanced flavors of red fruit including red cherry, raspberry and a touch of tart red berries are framed by a toasted vanilla oak and earthy frame. Soft black tea and cola linger with floral and subtle herbal hints.Finish – Long and clean, this generous and soft but not overly fruit forward Pinot lingers with fresh hints of red fruit fading as the earthy notes and toasted oak and other complex flavors last until the next sip.
Conclusion – Once again Merryvale produces a winner with its 2009 Carneros Pinot Noir. Inviting aromas, a soft silky and generous mouth-feel, bright fruit but balanced with complex tea, cola, earth and spice notes and a long pleasant finish, this wine really delivers. Not overly fruity but not austere either, a lovely wine to drink with lunch or lighter fare. Enjoy this wine right now or for the next three to five years.
Today’s winemaker is busy with bottling at this time of year, so we could not secure our usual interview. What follows is my 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 remarkable Starmont facility can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
About This Wine:
Our Pinot Noir is bright ruby in color, and shows notes of cranberry orange marmalade, Bing cherry, candy cap mushrooms, vanilla bean and hibiscus tea on the nose. Silky tannins and a rich mouthfeel are balanced with crisp acidity and toasty oak for a long finish.
Vineyard Notes: For most of the 2009 harvest in Napa Valley, things went smoothly. Early-ripening whites—Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc—and reds, namely Carneros Pinot Noir, were picked at optimal ripening levels, capping a summer of mild, steady weather. Cabernet Sauvignon enjoyed the same ideal growing conditions until October, when a pair of strong storms dumped enough rain to worry growers. Wineries that waited out the deluge faced a mixed bag, but those who picked before the storms, including us, are very excited about the young wines’ overall quality and ripeness at slightly lower alcohol levels.
Production Notes: The grapes for this wine come from the historic Stanly Ranch, in the Napa area of Carneros. Now coming into full maturity, the vineyard was planted in 2001 with newly available clones that are transforming the quality and character of Carneros Pinot Noir into richer and darker wines. The grapes were handpicked and carefully sorted. The wine was aged for twelve months in French Oak and bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Food Pairing: The wine pairs well with roast salmon and any dish featuring wild mushrooms.
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: Stanly Ranch Estate
WINEMAKING: Fruit is hand sorted; wine gets 5 days cold soak; gently punched down and pumped over; 20 days on the skins; aged 12 months in French oak (44% new); bottled unfined and unfiltered.
ALCOHOL: 14.3% by volume