Merlot •Cedar Lane Vineyard
California: Monterey County: Arroyo Seco
What We Say
Great Wine Alert! Today’s wine wins a spot on our Top 5 Merlot tasted in 2007 list.
Mission Codename: GO, GO, Merlot!
Operative: Agent Sparkle
Objective: With the holidays approaching, our Operatives have been requesting a rich red wine with great flavor and a refined character that will not overpower most food parings. Agent Sparkle was pulled from her Bubbly-seeking duties to spy today’s great wine.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Bernardus
Wine Subject: 2002 Bernardus Merlot
Winemaker: Dean De Korth
Bernardus Winery has quickly become a Wine Spies operative favorite. Bernardus makes wines us class and elegance, without any pretension. Their wines are richly flavored and always have a great mouthfeel and superb finish.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Ruby red with great clarity and some small sediment at the bottom of the glass, plus tightly-spaced legs that appear slowly and the accellerate down the glass in a way that I have seen no other wine do!
Smell – This is a very rich-smelling wine with layers of aromas. I detected dark stone fruit, redwood bark, dense forest floor, sweet tobocco, aloe vera and cherry with very subtle spiced okra and baco bits. Unique aromas to be sure, but all very pleasing and in great balance with one another
Feel – Great mouthfeel that is smooth and supple, wet and slippery at first – then gentle tannins appear at the edges and rear of the tongue and top of mouth.
Taste – Juicy and fruity with cherry, plum, mixed berries and cedar with a very gentle vegital quality
Finish -Easy and mild, lingering with a cleanness and the mildest tannic bite
The easy: GREAT GREAT WINE!
The detailed: This very distinctive wine is my favorite Merlot of 2007. With an incredible mouthfeel and flavors and aromas that keep me sniffing and sipping at length, this is a wine worthy of a place at your next fine meal – or romantic encounter with the special Operative in your life. Merlot got a bad rap in the movie, Sideways. When you try this wine, you will see that this was totally undeserved. Merlot can be great. But, can this Merlot go head-to-head with a great Pinot and win? I would say that winning is not the goal. Rather, one should choose a wine to suit a particular occasion, food pairing or mood. I enjoyed this wine with a fellow agent over fine Italian food and Tiramisu. The wine is mature, integrated and easy on the pallet. Its medium consistancy is smooth, not watery, not heavy. Its flavor, delicious!
Wines like this one remind me that the is more to life than great Champagne. Despite my primary Wine Spies mission of focusing my efforts on spying great bubbly, Central Command demands that all Wine Spies conduct regular missions outside of their specialization. Agent Red first introduced me to Bernardus winery when The Wine Spies featured another of their red wines. It quickly became a favorite of mine and so when Command assigned me this mission I sprang into action.
After making contact with our asset at the winery, we arranged for a clandestine tasting. The 2002 Merlot immediately struck me as a wine that would captivate our Operatives. It feels great in the mouth and has aromas and flavors that please the senses. It finishes long and flavorful and always has me reaching for more.
Right there I made arrangements for this weekends allocation. The winery did not have very much left of this superior wine, but our more at the ready operatives should be able to get their hands on some. Then again, maybe not. I’ll be picking up a case for the Holidays… and one for the cellar… and one for holiday gifts… and…
The Wine Spies Technical Analysis:
Cooperage: 100% French oak Vicard, Sylvain, Bernard, Tonnellerie Bordelaise
Appellation: Monterey County
Varietal: 100% Merlot
Harvest Date: October 23rd
Bottled: Spring 2004
Case Production: 507
Wine Spies Satellite Recon:
The tasting room can be seen in this satellite photo
What the Winery Says
Check out The Wine Spies on Wine Library TV
About This Wine:
Our 2002 Merlot comes principally from the Cedar Lane Vineyard in the Arroyo Seco area of the Salinas Valley. The weather in 2002 was ideal on the Central Coast for ripening wine grapes. We enjoyed warm, sunny conditions without any excessive heat spikes enabling Vintners to select their picking days based on perfect ripeness levels. This provided us with an excellent balance of both ripe and bright fruit flavors. After fermentation, our Merlot was carefully aged in French oak barrels (50% of which are new) for 18 months before bottling.
In the glass we immediately notice the deep, intense color, typical of our mountain-grown Marinus fruit. On the nose we discover ripe plum and cedar, along with notes of earth, smoke, and tobacco. The mouth-feel is full and intense filling the palate with flavors of ripe plums and berries, accented with notes of minerals, charred oak and dried herbs. This well structured beauty is still youthful and while its tannins have softened enough to be enjoyed now, it could easily be cellared for several more years.
About Bernardus Winery:
Owner Ben Pon appreciates wine as an art – a form of art that transcends the ordinary. His dream with Bernardus is to make a red wine equal to the finest from Bordeaux. To achieve this purpose, Ben, a Dutchman who could have planted vineyards anywhere in the world, has chosen the Carmel Valley for his estate vineyards and winery. Since the early 1970’s, there has been a growing awareness of the outstanding potential for Bordeaux varieties from this new viticultural appellation. The Bernardus estate vineyards of Marinus and Featherbow Ranch are located in the Cachagua region of the Carmel Valley. We have been told that Cachagua is the Spanish word Native Americans used for deep or hidden water. It has been said that Native Americans believed that all things in nature were sacred and interrelated. Their respect for balance in nature is carried on in the vineyards of Bernardus. More than 300 live oaks have been preserved to thrive among carefully planted vines.
Of the 220 acres, 50 acres have been planted to vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Sauvignon Blanc. Bernardus ventures forth as the fifth winery to establish vineyards in this sacred valley. While growing Bordeaux-style varieties in our estate vineyards, at Bernardus we are committed to cultivating Chardonnay in cool coastal climates, specifically the Monterey County growing region. Grapes from other superior coastal appellations in California are used to add nuances to the Bernardus blend. The vineyard components are then complemented by many different yeasts and oaks during the winemaking procedure.
Winemaker Dean DeKorth integrates his experience working with the methods and practices of Bernardus winemaking with his own personal intuition and technical expertise. Dean DeKorth, an American, is a French winemaker—all of his early impressions about wine came from his education and apprenticeship in France. A very important part of Dean’s Burgundian training was focused on distinguishing aromas and flavor qualities, as well as textural elements in the wine. With this old-world sense of taste, Dean seeks to make wines that flatter the palate. A viticulturalist, enologist, scholar, craftsman, and artist, Dean KeKorth brings to his winemaking a time-honored knowledge of wine and an endless passion – a passion labeled Bernardus.
At Bernardus the textural element-"the mouth feel’-is the most important expression of wine.
At a time when there is an increasing conversion of established French wine estates from seasoned wooden tanks to rows of stainless steel, Bernardus Winery was constructed to create traditional wines. Wines are aged in oak tanks and barrels specially crafted for Bernardus in the French region of Bordeaux and Burgundy. Oak is purchased from many coopers in France to allow for blending of different flavors, or “the spice rack approach”.
It is the goal of Ben Pon to create wines from the promising viticultural region of Carmel Valley that will rival in style and quality the finest traditional wines. With an unequaled commitment and the resources and talent to support this commitment, Bernardus is embarking upon the next frontier in American winemaking.