2009 Chardonnay Carneros
California: Napa Valley: Carneros
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Mission Codename: The Successionist
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Operative favorite, Merryvale, this time to procure the latest vintage of their fabled Carneros Chardonnay
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Merryvale Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2009 Carneros Chardonnay
Winemakers: Sean Foster and Graham Wehmeier
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 2007 vintages of this wine. For today’s wine, we skip straight to their most recent vintage to procure Merryvale’s stellar 2009.
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 Red’s tasting notes and mission report to learn more about this great Chardonnay
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Glinting golden hues with perfect concentration of color, right out the edge of the glass. After swirling, tall columns of skinny legs take a great deal of time to emerge – before they run slowly down the glass.
Smell – Lush, sweet and tropical, with a big rush of pineapple, green apple, start fruit and yellow pear. As the wine warms slightly, additional aromas of banana, lemon curd and toasty vanilla also emerge.
Feel – On the entry, the wine is ultra-smooth and voluptuous. After the wine crosses the threshold, it gently settles onto the mid-palate and coats the mouth. After the wine is swallowed, a soft dryness spreads inward from the corners of the palate.
Taste – Delicious and complex, the wine leads with sweet pear, pineapple and a hint of Meyer lemon. After some swirling, additional flavors emerge, including toasty oak, pear, golden apple, honeysuckle and vanilla.
Finish – Long and very flavorful, starting with sweet fruit and white flowers. After a few moments, the wine goes slightly tart. As the palate dries, a very light minerality lingers as flavors dwindle.
Conclusion – The 2009 Carneros Chardonnay, from our good friends at Merryvale Vineyards, is a soft, delicious and beautifully balanced wine. With a supple, almost velvety feel and great fruit, this wine is a sheer delight to sip. The wine is terrific, right out of the chiller and as it warms, it reveals richer flavors and so we recommend that you experiment with the wine. Carneros, which closely mimics Burgundy, in France, is one of our favorite appellations for California Chardonnay. Those that are grown here always exhibit a certain character that is unique to the region. This is true terroir in action. Pair with a shredded chicken and Mandarin salad or your favorite Summer vegetables. Ready to drink now, also be sure to purchase a few extra bottles of this wine for later in the year!
Today’s winemaker is busy with bottling at this time of year, so we could not secure our usual interview. Please be sure visit us, the next time we feature another superb Merryvale wine.
The Merryvale Vineyards remarkable Starmont facility can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
Awards & Accolades:
Gold Medal – San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
Gold Medal – New World International Wine Competition
Gold Medal – Finger Lakes International Wine Competition
About The Wine:
Intense and vibrant aromas of apple, spice, pear and vanilla bean wrapped in toasty oak. The mouthfeel is rich, ripe and full bodied with a long refreshing finish.
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 spent 9 months in French Oak, with the first seven months on primary lees, and is stirred monthly until blending.
Vintage : 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.
About The Winery:
The first winery built in Napa Valley following the repeal of Prohibition, Merryvale is located in the heart of America’s premier wine region. Beautiful landscaped gardens accented with an elegant fountain greet our guests at our historic winery, ideally located in downtown St. Helena, adjacent to the renowned Tra Vigne restaurant and Taylor’s Refresher and within walking distance of excellent shopping and dining.
In this celebrated home, passionate winemaking thrives in the care of the Schlatter family, along with Winemakers Sean Foster and Graham Wehmeier. The winery continues to capture the elegance and charm of its historic beginnings, with our enchanting historic Cask Room where we host private events, unique wine club events, seasonal dining, and Weekend Wine Events. The winery also features a newly renovated winemaking cellar that showcases the latest equipment to craft boutique wines.
By maintaining our vision
- turning exceptional Napa Valley grapes into world class wine- Merryvale has earned international acclaim for wines of outstanding quality. Visit us in our Tasting Cellar to experience Napa Valley.
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: 9 months in French Oak (50% new)
Alcohol: 14.5% by volume
Production: 1,952 cases