Saddleback Cellars

2005 Napa Valley Merlot


California: Napa Valley

Offer Expired:Jun 15, 2011 at 11:59 pm
Avg. Price

What We Say


Today’s Estate Grown Oakville Merlot is an exceptional wine that will find itself at home with your best meals. It is easily deserving of a special spot on your table, and in your personal cellar.


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Mission Codename: Ergo Merlot

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Return to Saddleback Cellars to visit with winemaker Nils Venge. Procure his coveted 2005 Napa Valley Merlot.

and return with an exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Saddleback Cellars

Wine Subject: 2005 Merlot Napa Valley

Winemaker: Nils Venge

Backgrounder: The Oakville AVA, centrally located and adjacent to Napa Valley’s famous Rutherford AVA, was established in July 1993. Oakville is considered on of the most diverse AVA’s in the Napa area and grows some of the best Merlot and Cabernet in California. This wine is produced by the famed Nils Venge who is widely considered to be one of the best winemakers in the region.

To true wine lovers, Merlot is one of the finest wine varietals in the world. Today, Merlot continues to sell in record numbers across the US, outpacing most other varietals. Merlot is a sincere, food-fabulous wine for serious wine drinkers. Today’s wine raises the bar for Napa Merlot, by delivering a delicious, complex, fruit-forward wine with plenty of complexity.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep, dark ruby red, with a darker and almost inky core. At the rim of the glass, bright ruby runs a fine circle around the wine. When swirled, wine-stained legs are slow to emerge, before running quickly down the glass.

Smell – Bold and lush, leading with the biggest blueberry that we have smelled on any wine. Just behind the spectacular blueberry, jammy blackberry, red currant, smoked plum, chocolate and subtle dried fall leaves.

Feel – Round and smooth on the attack, then quickly grippy at the mid-palate. After a moment, the wine coats the entire palate as plush tannins add complexity. A soft dryness gradually spreads around the palate, eventually making the mouth water.

Taste – Mixed blueberry and blackberry jam with dark cherry, sweet plum and darkest chocolate over complex earthen notes of dried fall leaves, dried violets, subtlest dried herbs, mildest oak and a hint of dark mineral.

Finish – Very long in length with lingering flavors of blueberry, blackberry and plum. These are backed up by the wines earthy components, herbal notes, and hints of spice and black pepper.

Conclusion – The 2006 Saddleback Cellars Napa Valley Merlot reinforces our love of fantastic Merlot. Nils Venge shows off his decades of winemaking experience. The grapes for this wine come from Saddleback’s Oakville Estate vineyards, and were hand picked and hand sorted to bring you a wine that is made from the finest of their Merlot crop. This wine possesses a very fruit-forward style, with the most blueberry we have ever experienced in a Merlot. But the wine also have an earthy side, which provides a perfect balance to the wonderful fruit. Pair this food-friendly wine with nearly anything, especially a fantastic grilled meat dish. We really love this wine, and we are sure that you will, too!

Mission Report:

Alas. Nils Venge has proven too elusive, even for Agent Red. Please tune in, next time, when we assure you that we’ll have a new interview for your reading pleasure.

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The approximate location of the Saddleback Cellars can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

Awards & Accolades:

Robert Parker Jr., The Wine Advocate – “The 2005 Merlot is fruity, fresh, lively, elegant, and Bordeaux-like. The pleasant, dark ruby-colored 2005 Merlot exhibits berry fruits, herbs, abundant oak, and a hint of charcoal”

Silver MedalSan Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – 2010

About This Wine:

A hedonist’s dream! This delicious, concentrated wine has aromas of black currants, ripe plums, dark cherry licorice, and cocoa. It has a silky full bodied entry on the palate, with tamed/controlled tannins, plenty of sweet oak, and a luxuriously long finish. With proper storage, this wine will age admirably for ten years, however, we feel it is drinkable now. Great with a juicy T-bone steak.

VINEYARD & GRAPES: The Merlot was sourced from grapes grown from our Oakville estate, where we have one and one-half acres planted, and blended with our Napa Corktree Vineyard. This was the final vintage using Corktree fruit before the vineyard was sold to Duckhorn Vineyards post harvest. We feel this wine is a classic style worthy of distinction as a blend from the best of Napa Valley vineyard sites.

FERMENTATION AND AGING: After the grapes were put through the crusher/de-stemmer, the must was inoculated with cultured Montrachet yeast. Fermented at an average of 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the sugar to alcohol conversion was completed within eight days in stainless steel tanks. The must was pumped over at least three times daily to enhance color, flavor and tannin extraction from the skins. After two rackings the wine was transferred to hybrid American/French oak barrels, 40% new oak with 60% second fill. The wine underwent its own malolactic conversion in the barrel over an 18 month ageing period.

About The Winery:

Established in 1982, Saddleback Cellars is a small winery located in Oakville, in the heart of the Napa Valley. 14.8 total acres are planted to 8.4 acres Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.9 acres Chardonnay, 1.75 acres Merlot, 1.1 acres Pinot Blanc, 0.3 acres Pinot Grigio and 0.3 acres Zinfandel.

Known as “The King of Cabernet,” legendary winemaker and owner, Nils Venge, has been making stellar Cabernet Sauvignon, along with many other varietals here since its establishment. Nils’ philosophy on making wines for Saddleback is that they must reflect the best qualities that Napa Valley has to offer; sometimes a single vineyard, sometimes a single appellation, or a blend of appellations to make the best wine in a particular vintage. Despite his reputation as “The King,” Nils is a down-to-earth, cheerful, full-of-life kind of guy whose wines not only reflect the character of their region, but also seem to reflect his personality – bold, yet approachable, friendly and fun yet with layers of complexities.

In 1939, Lady Liberty welcomed the Venge family, Nils’ grandparents and his father, Per, into New York harbor from Denmark. Grandfather, Kund, was asked by his company in Denmark, George Jensen Silver, to oversee the New York City enterprise. The small family thrived in this fast paced new world. Per attended New York City College and studied business administration. When Knud retired from the silver jewelry business, the Venges looked westward, and Southern California is where they headed.

The family bought a home in the Hollywood Hills where Per was able to indulge in his love of horses. He worked at North American Aircraft as an efficiency engineer during World War II and was a member of the Sheriff’s Posse of Los Angeles County. One day, on horseback, Per spotted Gudrun Ingwersen, also a member of the Posse. When their eyes met, he knew he was looking at the woman he was destined to marry. Soon after, Gudrun gave birth to twins, Nils and his twin sister, Karen.

After the war, Per started a wine, beer and spirits distributor business in Los Angeles which specialized in Danish and European products. While growing up, Nils worked for his father on weekends and the summer holidays. When he graduated from San Marino High School, it was Per’s wish that young Nils would take over the family venture. They both agreed that they really needed to know more about wine. So, Nils enrolled at the University of Davis where he went on to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in Viticulture with a minor in Enology in 1967. When he returned to Southern California, Nils enrolled at L.A. State College to work toward a degree in International Business Law. At the same time, Nils signed up as a Navy Reservist which sent him on a tour of duty in Danang, Vietnam.

When he returned in 1970, Nils decided that what he really wanted to do was put his degree to work in the Napa Valley and not to take over the family business.

Technical Analysis:

Appellation: Napa Valley

Varietals: 100% Merlot

Alcohol: 14.2%

Harvest: We handpicked 8.956 tons of Merlot from October 5th-October 22nd, 2005.

Ageing and Cooperage: 18 months in 50% new French oak

Average Sugar: 24.8 Brix

Acidity: 6.5 g/L

pH: 3.5

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