2003 Trio Meritage
Red Blend •Trio Vineyard
California: Napa Valley
What we say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s wine, made available only to our most Elite ranks, is a superb wine that is welll-worthy of a place in your cellar.
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Mission Codename: Ménage à Trio
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Wine Spies’ Operative favorite, Deerfield Ranch Winery, and procure their finest red, for our special Elite Operative Saturday.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Deerfield Ranch Winery
Wine Subject: 2006 Red Rex
Winemaker: Robert Rex
Backgrounder: Located in Kenwood, California, Deerfield Ranch Winery is a Wine Spies Operative favorite. The winery has proved elusive in recent times, but Agent Red was able to secure a limited allotment of today’s 2003 Trio, a deep and delicious Napa Valley Meritage, for our demanding Operatives.
Varietal Backgrounder: Meritage (pronounce like ‘heritage’, with no French-style accent) wine, blends made in the tradition of the great wines of Bordeaux can only carry the name if the winery is a member of The Meritage Association based in Sonoma County. Most wines made in the US are varietal wines, comprised of over 75% of a single varietal. Unfortunately, this labeling requirement is believed to impair many winemakers from making exceptional blends, since they are often labeled as simply Red Table Wine with the noble grapes of Bordeaux. Thus in 1988 Meritage was born as a way to highlight the winemaker’s art of careful blending and crafting of wines in the tradition of some of Europe’s finest wines.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark and inky garnet hues. The edges of the wine show a iridescent brickish color. After swirling, thick, wine-stained tears glide slowly down the inside of the glass.Smell – Dark and aromatic, with dusky plum, blackberry compote and darkest cherry in the lead. Beneath these lies spice, dark bakers chocolate, sweet dried herbs and toasty oak.
Feel – Cool and light on entry, the wine slowly takes on weight. The wine transforms from what seems to be a simple wine, to one with more complexity and character.
Taste – Dark and ripe with smoky black cherry juice, overripe blackberry, dusty bramble and coffee grounds. These are followed by stewed plum, black fig, dark spice, toasted anise seed, red plum and black pepper.
Finish – Long, dark and complex, with bold blackfruit and a dusky earthen character that continues on for a long after the wine leaves your mouth. At the very end, a chewy, textured feel lingers.
Conclusion – This is a delicious, dark, flavorful wine that gets better, the longer it breaths. Decant or swirl, heartily, and be rewarded with lusher fruit and a softer feel. The wine is big and ripe, at it leaves a lingering, chewy feel behind, but the wine has a soft side, too. And, a good acidity, making it a great wine to pair with a lovely steak. If you love big, dark wines with a personality, this wine is guaranteed to please.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Robert Rex
WINE EDUCATION: 38 years of wine making experience
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Robert Rex is a “renaissance man” possessing a great palate and an exceptional talent for winemaking. He is a chemist, graphic designer and accomplished gourmet cook. He has the ability to fix almost anything. The harvest of 2010 will be Robert’s 38th consecutive year of winemaking. Robert and PJ, his wife and business partner, have lived in Kenwood, Sonoma Valley, for 28 years at their beautiful hilltop retreat, Deerfield Ranch, where the Deerfield Ranch Winery was founded. The view out their back door of Sonoma Mountain is the inspiration for the winery logo.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Making wine is like gourmet cooking. We start with the finest ingredients, grapes farmed by growers who put as much attention into the vines as we do into the wines. Great wine begins in the vineyard. We have worked with the same growers year after year to perfect a partnership to produce the best wine. By drawing from many vineyards, we get grapes from appellations where varietals grow the best. We allow the grapes to fully vine ripen, hand pick and sort the grapes, and use the most gentle production techniques. We produce wines using organic methods and are one of only three certified organic producing wineries in Sonoma.
We make wine by hand in small lots and taste them constantly to manage their constant change. We experiment with the latest techniques while operating from a foundation of tradition. We mold and nudge the wines in one direction or another to make them lovely, fruity and delicious to drink. Our reds receive extended barrel aging, which makes them mellow. Attention to cleanliness and balance makes them age worthy.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: Taste the passion
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1982
AGENT RED: Greetings, Robert. We are thrilled to be showing your 2003 Trio Vineyard Meritage, Napa Valley today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
ROBERT: Thank you for having me. It’s always a pleasure to share my passion with your Operatives.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
ROBERT: When I was 9, I had piece of angel food cake and begged my mother to teach me how to make it. I’ve been in love with cooking ever since and winemaking, especially blending, draws from the same fundamentals. I often say I am a product of my environment in that way, if I had grown up in New York I’d have a restaurant, I grew up in California so I have a winery.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
ROBERT: My early mentor was Andre Tchelistcheff who taught me about blending and of course my wife PJ for sure. PJ is very sensitive to histamines and sulfites in wine so all our wines are clean, meaning we triple hand sort the grapes removing anything you wouldn’t feed your baby. As a result our wines have extremely low levels of histamines and sulfites, so anybody can drink them without experiencing headaches or allergic reactions.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
ROBERT: For everyone who enjoys wine. I appreciate the reviewers and bloggers who spend time creating tasting notes and reviews but the best compliment I can get about one of my wines is delicious!
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
ROBERT: We’re featuring the 2003 Meritage from Will Nord’s Trio Vineyard in the Yountville AVA. I’m a Sonoma winemaker, all my friends know that. There’s a healthy rivalry between Napa and Sonoma, Sonoma wines are better known for depth and a smooth feel and Napa wines for their big mouth feel. So when I work with grapes from Napa, I incorporate my Sonoma style to make wines that have the large mouth-feel we love from Napa with the smooth, velvety characteristic that we love from Sonoma. That’s really the perfect word here, velvet. This wine features a broad palate, boasting rich berries over oak, earth, leather and a light tobacco flavor. I love this wine because it demands my attention. Sometimes I taste a wine and it’s good, but it’s simple. The 2003 Trio Meritage, to me, is more like having a conversation with the wine, you have to get to know it and it will take a little while to understand it’s personality.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
ROBERT: Traditionally I’ve paired this with pork tenderloin, prepared with my wine red reduction sauce (which takes 12 bottles of wine and 24 hours, you can check it out at our website. Charlie Trotter paired Deerfield’s Meritage with a winter vegetable ratatouille, it was quite a delicious pairing. I think the full bodied elegance of this wine will allow it to go well with a variety of dishes. Of course if you come to my house, expect pork tenderloin or rack of lamb in my red wine reduction sauce!
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Trio Vineyard in Yountville so special?
ROBERT: I love all of the North Coast, Sonoma most, but Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties all have great terroir. The land here has spent the last million years shaping this area for wine. Volcanoes have strewn rich ash over the hillsides, oceans and rivers have left deposits over valley floors, all sitting on top of diverse layers of soils, loams and minerals. Yountville is fortunate to be touched by all those influences. It also traps the cool air moving up from the San Pablo bay, cooling the grapes in the evening and allowing the sun to warm them during the day. It’s stunning how all the elements come together to impact the grape. What makes the Trio Vineyard unique, is that Nord grows all five Bourdeaux varietals there. I don’t see that too often so, as a winemaker, I love being able to do a full Meritage blend AND highlight the unique terroir of the Trio vineyard.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
ROBERT: HARVEST 2011! We brought in Pinot Gris last Tuesday from Saralee’s Vineyard in the Russian River, which is an extremely renowned vineyard in these parts, owned by Saralee and Richard Kunde. Saralee is the vineyard manager and I’ve never seen anyone better. The bunches are very small, look almost like those little Champagne grapes you see in the super markets in the fall. They are very tasty with Brix about 24. All the grapes I’ve tasted so far have very high acid, which speaks to a super vintage. Once they come in we sort through everything by hand, the attention to detail is not only what makes the wine delicious but it prevents the yeast from producing histamines, which give you red wine headaches. If you visit the winery you can see our hand sorting line at work, or just check out www.cleanwine.info. My wife PJ says winemakers must have very short term memories, because if we remembered how hard we worked during harvest the previous year, we wouldn’t be so excited for harvest this year! It is hard work, long hours and lasts a couple months but the joy of crafting wine will always win out for me. It’s the artisan spirit, to create beauty and share it with the world.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
ROBERT: Passionately. Winemaking is more than a profession, it’s my passion. The long hours and hard work wouldn’t be worth it if I didn’t absolutely love it, and that’s what I want everyone to taste – the passion. Wine is such a delicate art and one that is meant to be enjoyed.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
ROBERT: If you make it to Kenwood please stop by the winery and taste wines in the Grand Room of our wine cave. We always love to take the time to share Deerfield wines with guests. Sante!
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are b
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The approximate location of the Deerfield Ranch Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
About This Wine:
Great wines don’t just happen. They are the result of lifetimes of experience and passion. You can taste them both in this 2003 Trio vineyard Meritage.
Will Nord and his family have been growing grapes in Napa for a long time. The Nord vineyards and his Trio vineyard in particular are at the cutting edge of modern viticultural practices. Add to that the perfect field blend of Bordeaux varietals and you’ve got the perfect match.
To this we add our 3 decades for winemaking talent, education, experimentation and learning from our peers and you have this wine. Our friends say its a Napa Cab wine made by a Sonoma winemaker. This means the wine is more elegant, more reserved, compared to the more tannin, more aggressive Napa made counterparts. It’s very much a mouthful, with big forward flavors that hit every corner, every place you experience wine. It’s the Meritage experience at its penultimate.
Deerfield Trio Meritage is a blend of 42% Cabernet, 28% Cab. Franc, 12% Petit Verdot, 10% Malbec and Merlot 8% all from the same vineyard. Grapes from complementary soil types and microclimates are blended to maximize varietal characteristics and complexity similar to how a fined Bordeaux is produced. The grapes were sourced from Nord Family’s Trio Vineyards. Trio’s rich dark soils and warmer mid-valley climate are perfect for the Bordeaux-style blends planted in this Cabernet region near Yountville.
About The Winery:
Deerfield Ranch Winery is an award-winning winery located in the heart of the Sonoma Valley at Kenwood. We specialize in small lots of handmade wine from select Northern California vineyards. Currently we have 17 vineyards under contract and make as many as 40 separate lots of wine from those vineyards.
Our wines can be tasted FREE at the Family Wineries of Sonoma Valley tasting room at 9200 Sonoma Highway (Highway 12) in Kenwood.
We make several wine varietals and blends, something for everyone, a wine for every occasion
Production lots vary from 250 cases to 1000 cases. We will produce about 8,000 cases in 2005, and plan to grow to a maximum of 25,000 cases per year in our New Winery.
About The Winemakers:
Robert Rex started making wine in 1972 in Berkeley, California. He has worked for many different wineries, started wineries for others, specializing in rebuilding wineries and starting winemaking programs for those wineries when they changed hands. He has taught winemaking and still acts as a consulting winemaker.
Michael Browne, a native of Washington state, started making wine as an intern at Deerfield Ranch Winery in 1997. Now in his 6th year at Deerfield Michael handles the day to day cellar duties at the winery. He maintains and monitors three vintages of wine in the barrel and more than 35 separate lots from the last vintage alone. He is much more than assistant winemaker, he is part of the dynamic duo of Robert and Michael, the winemakers.
Varietals: 42% Cabernet, 28% Cabernet Franc, 12% Petit Verdot, 10% Malbec and 8% Merlot
Aged: 30 Months in artisan coopered 3 year air-dried barrels, 80% French, 20% American