What We Say 2007 Sonoma County Merlot
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
This is an exceptional Merlt, from the best vintage in a decade! Discover why Robert Parker, Jr. gave the 2007 vintage an astonishingly high score of 96 points.
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Mission Codename: Tied to the Ocean
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Dry Creek Vineyard, a winery that we first infiltrated back in 2008, and procure an allocation of their stellar, budget-minded, Merlot.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Dry Creek Vineyard
Wine Subject: 2007 Dry Creek Valley Merlot
Winemaker: Bill Knuttel
Backgrounder: 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, and 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 – Dark ruby hues with a darker, clear heart. After a good swirl, wine-stained tears start high up on the glass wall. They hold onto the color as they run slowly down the glass, thinning as they fall.
Smell – Rich and dark cherry, chocolate cherry, blueberry, and dusty bramble bush all take a captivating lead. As the wine takes on some oxygen, follow-on aromas of leather, spice, dried earth, and dried leaves emerge, adding great dimension.
Feel – Soft on entry, then quickly plush with a crushed-velvet feel that spreads from the tip of the tongue, rearward. Fine-grained tannins and a balanced acidity give the wine a complex, exciting feel.
Taste – Delicious and darkly rich with black cherry, black raspberry, smoky blueberry, and dark strawberry. As the wine opens up, bakers chocolate, bramble, dried violets, and dark spice emerge.
Finish – Dark, dusky, and flavorful, this wine has a long-persistent finish. Black fruit yields to red fruit, soft minerals, dried violets, and spice.
Conclusion – This is a fantastic Merlot, especially at today’s low price! Flexible and food-fabulous, this wine – as is the case with many a great Merlot – can be paired with almost anything. We recommend enjoying a few bottles with your upcoming holiday meals, but we also suggest sipping it all on its own. Balanced fruit and fine-grained tannins give this friendly wine just enough complexity. The wine also possesses a real approachability. Enjoy this bright, tasty wine now – and cellar a couple of bottles for the next few years (we think it will just get better).
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Tim Bell
AGENT RED: Greetings, Tim. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Sonoma County Merlot today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
TIM BELL: Thanks, Agent Red!
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
TIM: I was always a romantic at heart, and as a teenager I loved those bucolic winegrowing scenes on the labels of Almaden Mt. Rhine. (Later I found out the grapes came from the flat sandy soils of the San Joaquin Valley!) Seriously, what I’ve found in winemaking is the perfect combination of science geekiness (we get to play with lab equipment—cool!), mystery (so many unknowns in winemaking), and art (intuition plays a big role in winemaking).
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
TIM: A revelatory wine for me was when I tasted Viticcio Prunaio, a Super Tuscan red, at a trade tasting. The revelation was not that I needed to make Sangiovese, but that a wine could have such complexity with layers of flavor bursting forth all at once. It’s an inspiration to this day. As for winemakers, I’d have to say Harry Hansen (now at Sterling) for his attention to detail, and Ted Edwards (Freemark Abbey) for a calm and thoughtful approach to every challenge – no need to get too excited!
RED: Who do you make wine for?
TIM: The wine business is indeed a business, so working for a historic family winery, my job is to implement the owner’s vision informed by all the experience and skills I bring to the table. Increasingly, the wine-drinking public is telling us what kind of wines they want us to make, so we have to listen to the consumer. But within that whole framework, I ultimately have to make a wine that pleases me. If I’m not making something I want to bring home to the dinner table, there won’t be joy that sustains me through all the challenges of each day. Nothing beats the satisfaction I get personally when someone I care about tells me how much they enjoyed a wine I made.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
TIM: This wine is drinking beautifully right now, with a nice balance of cherry fruit and cocoa and cedar complexity that comes from some bottle age. The blend is 87% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec sourced from a variety of hillside and valley vineyards in Dry Creek Valley. The 2007 vintage was just a banner year for red wines, with a very evenly-paced harvest that allowed us to pick vineyards when flavors were ripe without any concerns with rain or other potential problems.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
TIM: The first thing I think of when I taste the 2007 Dry Creek Vineyard Merlot is a lamb roast with plenty of rosemary and salt rubbed all over it. If I was going to go with a meatless option, I’d try some pasta with ripe tomatoes, basil, and garlic, something fresh and simple.
RED: In your opinion, what makes Sonoma County such a special place for Merlot?
TIM: In Dry Creek Valley in particular, we get enough heat most years to ripen Merlot past green flavors into mature, full fruit flavors. When you have Merlot planted here in the right spot, you get a nice elegant wine.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
TIM: We are riding herd on the new reds, trying to get them through malo-lactic fermentation and then put away in barrel to age quietly for a while. We’re already thinking about bottling at the first of the year with our whites, planning our Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc blends.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
TIM: At Dry Creek Vineyard we’re down-to-earth folks making wines with character and integrity. I think people can taste that in the bottle. You can get detailed and fanatic about storing, aging, and pairing wines with the best food, and if that brings you joy, we can keep up with you with plenty of information, facts, and knowledge. But at the end of the day, I hope people look at wine as a part of a lunch or dinner experience that elevates our time of relaxation and unwinding from something ordinary to something a little bit special. You don’t have to obsess over the perfect stemware or food pairing if you don’t want to; just open the bottle and enjoy it!
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
TIM: Dry Creek Valley is a remarkable place, capable of producing fantastic Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, and Bordeaux-style reds. The people here are genuine and proud of their work. That’s why I’m here at Dry Creek Vineyard, one of the real anchor wineries of this region. There are great vineyards and authentic people at work producing delicious wines. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Dry Creek Vineyard winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Dry Creek Vineyard
About This Wine:
At first swirl, this delicious wine presents enticing aromas of fig, wild berry, cassis and chocolate nuances. On the palate, this Merlot is full of ripe cherry flavors. A spicy undertone of complexity rounds out the mouthfeel with earthy, dusty tannins that are fine grained and well defined. This wine shows of its regional complexity and is true to the varietal character. Succulent, rich and showing remarkable depth, this concentrated Merlot finishes with seamless balance and finesse.
About The Winery:
Dry Creek Vineyard is one of the few remaining family owned wineries left in California. With more than 35 years of grape growing and winemaking experience, our efforts continue to focus on the quality of wine in the bottle. When founder David Stare started Dry Creek Vineyard, he began the winery with a single-minded effort to offer the highest quality wine possible at a reasonable price. Dave realized that the success of the winery hinged upon providing that “something special” in the bottle to keep customers coming back for more.
Today, the second generation continues to build upon those early-established values. Dave’s daughter, Kim Stare Wallace and her husband, Don Wallace, are wholly committed to the quality of wine produced at Dry Creek Vineyard. With an eye toward the future, Kim and Don continue their passion to produce high quality wines while being mindful of the original vision of the winery.
Grapes: 87% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec
Appellation: 100% Dry Creek Valley
Harvest: September 19 – October 11, 2007
Fermentation: Fermented 17 days at 83˚F.
Barrel Aging: 19 months in American and French oak
Total Acidity: 0.61
Residual Sugar: Dry
Aging Potential: 3 – 7 years