2007 Coombsville Divide Merlot
Merlot •Estate Bottled
California: Napa Valley
What We Say
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Mission Codename: Un-Divided Attention
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Return to our good friends at Farella-Park and secure an allocation of their Coombsville Divide Merlot.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Farella-Park Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2007 Coombsville Divide Merlot
Winemaker: Tom Farella
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, out-pacing 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 – Dark garnet with a dense and barely clear core that shows colors of black-cherry Jell-O. Along the edges, the color remains dark only slightly paling at the meniscus. When swirled, this wine settles quickly and leaves medium-thick legs of varying speeds on the side of the glass.
Smell – Rich and spicy on the nose with layers of ripe dark plum, raspberry, red and black-cherry and other red and black fruit leading the way followed by smoky cedar cigar box. Spice, earthy undertones, soft herbal notes and a touch of bittersweet cocoa invites a sip.
Feel – This full-bodied wine is dry on the palate with a touch of spice hitting on the tip of the tongue as the sturdy medium-firm and texture tannins expand over the palate. Lively on the acidity and a touch of minerality frames the fruit provides a clean feeling into the finish.
Taste – Fresh and ripe red and black fruit including dark plum, raspberry jam, red and black-cherry blend with layers of woody cedar with a touch of smoke. Hints of spice, earth, bittersweet cocoa and other flavors found on the nose also make their appearance on the palate.
Finish – Medium long in length with the fruit lasting as the other flavors gently fade. The sturdy tannins, textured minerals and lively acidity linger just under the fruit.
Conclusion – Like the other fantastic wines from Tom Farella that we’ve featured, the 2007 Farella-Park Vineyards Coombsville Divide Merlot fully delivers. Rich and fruit forward on the nose, sturdy but not overbearing on the palate and delicious and full flavors complimented by its lasting finish. A great wine to enjoy by itself or paired with grilled meats or stews. Enjoy this wine now or cellar for the next five years as it continues to develop.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Tom Farella
WINE EDUCATION: UCDavis grad in Viticulture & Enology 1983
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Neyers, Flora Springs harvests 1980,1981, 1982. Winemaker Preston Vineyards 1983 – 1989. Harvest Domaine Carneros 1989, 1990, 1991. Harvest Farella-Park 1989, 1990. Harvest +, Domaine Jacques Prieur Meursault, France (Burgundy) 1989. Harvest Ponzi vineyards 1990. Vineyard work, Beaux Freres (Oregon) early 1991. Winemaker Farella-Park 1991 to Present.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Balanced wine with full, ripe flavors but just short of oaky, hot, tannic or syrupy qualities. Vibrancy. Age-worthiness.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”I like to make our wines so that they are mildly addictive, especially with food. That’s a testament to vibrancy and balance.”
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: Farella-Park, 1985
AGENT WHITE: Greetings, Tom. Welcome back! We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Coombsville Divide Merlot today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
TOM FARELLA: Sure! Happy to be back in the secret wine lair.
WHITE: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
TOM: It sounds corny but we took a family vacation to Burgundy when I was 12 and it really got my juices flowing – no pun intended. The concept of harvesting a farm product and transforming it into wine –- a finished product that you crafted, labeled and could later hand somebody – really intrigued me. The many disciplines required made it seem like a fascinating career. We were having a little wine for family occasions in the European tradition, at the time, so it wasn’t a foreign concept to aspire to a career in the industry. We also had a farming tradition on my mom’s side and I was a bit of a science nerd so the many facets were very compelling.
WHITE: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
TOM: I was exposed to French wines early on so the “balanced wine” world was the original template. Bruce Neyers, Lou Preston, Tom Dehlinger, Dick Ponzi and my dad kind of formed my attitudes.
WHITE: Who do you make wine for?
TOM: [poss answers: myself, consumers, wine reviewers, other?] We’re adamant to make wines that we drink and enjoy and not sell out by all the usual tricks – over-oaking, hot finishes, syrupy acid profiles, and the like. I can’t drink more than a glass of that style. Since we are in Napa Valley, many of the high scoring wines fit that profile but we are dedicated to balance and making wines that are invigorating and worthy of way more than a glass. Ours are not wimpy wines. Make no mistake about that, but they stay just shy of overblown.
WHITE: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
TOM: Our Estate Bottled “Coombsville Divide” Merlot is so named for it’s location in our vineyard. There’s a little knoll in the middle of our vineyard where two main drainages of the new Coombsville AVA go north and south so it’s right on the divide between the two. We have been making Merlot from this location since 1985 and, usually blend in a little Cabernet Sauvignon from just up the slope. The 2007 is 10% Cab, blended in to boost the mid-palate and sculpt the finish just a touch. With our Merlot, we are always striving to focus on the plushness that makes Merlot such a great varietal. The characteristics are always an interplay between the bright berry qualities and the inherent spice notes that come from our site. I always love watching how, as the Merlots evolve, the fresh strawberry/blueberry character morphs to a strawberry jam/raspberry, then to the more classic Bordeaux characteristics of strawberry/cigar box with a touch of leather. The 2007 is in the middle zone now and, true to our style, really just hitting its stride.
WHITE: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
TOM: With its medium-bodied profile, it makes a great compliment to savory dishes like roast chicken, pork tenderloin or a nice mushroom risotto. Those dishes are great in these cold winter months so it’s a great option right now.
WHITE: In your opinion, what makes the Coombsville Divide such a special place for Merlot?
TOM: This is a big topic right now because the “Coombsville” AVA, a sub-AVA of Napa Valley, was just approved on December 14th. I co-authored the petition back in 2009 and, now that it was successful, I can say it was a fun project, mostly because it was straight-forward and required very little improvement for the TTB to make their decision. This is a testament to Coombsville being so easily definable as a region with tons of history to back it up.
Coombsville is an area with, what we like to call “rolling benchlands” which describes the undulating topography with diverse aspects of slope which effects the options for different varietals. Most of the Cabernet Sauvignon is on the south and west-facing hillsides, Merlot better suited to the cooler areas downslope, and even some Pinot and Chardonnay in the lower areas. We have noted a fairly consistent characteristic amongst the various brands in the area, namely, abundant fine tannins which lend a great textural quality to the wines. It can be interpreted as gritty or earthy, but it’s more of a sensation on the palate than an actual flavor
WHITE: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
TOM: The year-end blues… lots of paperwork. One of the great things about harvest, is that we get to immerse ourselves in our passion – making wine. The flip side of that is that wineries have all the trappings of manufacturing and inventory control which have significant tax consequences. Ugh. In addition, however, we are working on the final ’09 red blends (yes, we held them back another half-year), analyzing and tasting the new 2011s, and preparing for some branding changes for us. We have been Farella-Park Vineyards since 1985 but we are shifting to simply “Farella Vineyard” for the upcoming bottlings.
WHITE: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
TOM: I love when they just get into them and enjoy them with a meal, family, some friends. It doesn’t have to be a special occasion to enjoy a nice wine. Our wines hold up well after a couple of days of being open so it’s not a huge commitment, or anything The prices are pretty good, considering the quality and pedigree so I love it when we provide people’s “go-to” wine.
WHITE: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
TOM: We are in a special spot in the Napa Valley just a few miles from the ever-changing downtown Napa. We love to share what we’re doing (by appointment!) and it’s a breath of fresh air here, compared to the main arteries of the Valley. All smaller-lot wines are unique so we are just playing to our strengths and keeping it real. I know that sounds snobby but a visit will affirm what were doing and back it up. Wine can be a lifetime of study or as simple as “I like that” so don’t get overwhelmed. Just pull the cork and go for the ride!
WHITE: 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!
TOM: Cheers and Happy 2012! All the best to everyone.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Farella-Park Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Medium-full bodied with soft, elegant tannins, excellent structure for ageing and a long, supple finish. Aromas and flavors of plum/cassis fruit with cedar, smoke and spice. Approachable now but will age very well and gain complexity for many years to come.
More and more, we are being approached for Merlot grapes from our sub-region in the Napa Valley as
winemakers recognize the special balance of climate and soil that is so well suited for Merlot. Look for the future appellation of “Coombsville” to be synonymous with Merlot. We keep about 10% of our Merlot grapes, the larger portion going to Merryvale and Hunnicutt wineries.
Stylistically, our Merlots are made with a tendency for softness and elegance, wines with deep allure to go with most savory dishes. We try to avoid heavy flavors, hard tannin and high alcohol which can be overwhelming with food. A soft hand during fermentation and ageing allows us to bottle our Merlot without fining and filtration.
Our 2006 Merlot is a blend of two separate blocks within our vineyard, primarily the “Coombsville Divide” block that straddles both the Sarco and Tulocay drainages out of Coombsville that head westward towards the Napa River. It also includes a tiny bit of “Orchard Block” which is in decline due to it’s non-phylloxeraresistant AxR rootstock. Our Merlot really shows its strength as a plush, red varietal with a pleasing softness and bright red fruits in 2006. Time in the bottle will enhance the more succulent characteristics and intensify the classic claret “cigar box” spice.
About The Winery, Winemaker and Vineyards:
This year marks the 27th vintage for me as a vintner, something my father, Frank Farella, encouraged me to do as a boy while blazing a trail along the way. When I was 12 years old, our family visited the Burgundy region in France which illuminated winemaking as a beautiful mixture of science, farming, craft, creativity and old-fashioned hard, physical work. It doesn’t hurt that most fine wine regions of the world are also in beautiful places.
My father’s long-sought goal to grow wine grapes from a modest, depression-era background was a story that unfolded slowly and steadily for us. In the mid 70’s, it was actually affordable to buy land here but the process of establishing a 26 acre vineyard was far less clear-cut. Most of us in the wine business learned together, piece by piece, in a time when the Napa Valley had a lot of potential but not much credibility. Now, in the new millennium, we find ourselves literally leading the way in a vast, complex industry that seems to always start from lofty dreams and hard work much like my father’s story.
The path for me led to UC Davis, Neyers and Flora Springs in Napa, Preston in Sonoma, Prieur in Meursault, Ponzi and Beaux Freres (vineyard) in Oregon and finally back to our home vineyard a few miles from downtown Napa. We relish our role as growers for other prestigious wineries while keeping just a few favorite blocks for ourselves. Our practices are steeped in quality and experience with a solid dose of maintaining a healthy, natural environment. We are blessed with a location against the Vaca Mountains that is abundant in wildlife and has a perfect sunset seemingly every day.
As I grow older, fewer places seem to match the raw beauty of the Napa Valley and I never grow weary of the work. It really is a fascinating thing to take a plant, stick it in the ground, grow some luscious fruit, ferment it naturally, age it in an oak barrel, draw off the clear wine and put it in a bottle. In 5, 10, 20, 30 years you may find out what that little plant in that place is really all about. This magic is what we offer from our little slice of a very unique spot in a special valley on the planet.
Our winemaking philosophy starts with a balanced vineyard and finishes with balanced wines with an eye toward service with food, the perfect compliment – and vice-versa. These are wines that reflect the location, something innate to the land and shaped by our philosophy. We offer something unique and very personal all bottled up, sealed with a cork, nice and neat. We encourage you to visit and taste and see for yourselves.
Varietals: 90% Merlot and 10% Cabermnet Sauvignon from our estate vineyard in the southeastern corner of Napa Valley known locally as “Coombsville” and now a pending, new AVA
Aging: Aged 20 months in Taransaud Center of France High Toast oak barrels from the Nevers region, 15% new.
Released: May 2010
Production: Unfined & Unfiltered