2005 Merlot, Napa Valley
Merlot •Oak Knoll District
California: Napa Valley
What We Say
If you are visiting us for the first time, Welcome! The Wine Spies feature one exceptional wine each day – and we only bring you wines that we ourselves seek out and love. Always, the wines are great. Sometimes greater than great, as is the case with today’s wine from Merryvale Vineyards in Napa, California.
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT!: We always feature great wines, but today’s wine is worthy of special mention. This limited-availability and ready to drink masterpiece will go quickly, so place your order soon
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Mission Codename: Green Winery, Stellar Reds!
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Recover a Gold Medal-winning Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Merryvale Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2005 Merlot
Winemakers: Sean Foster and Larry Cherubino
Backgrounder: Back in April we featured another superb wine from Merryvale. We’re no dummies, so when we find a winery that we love – and that our Operatives love – we go back to them for another wine. Today we captured Merryvale’s wonderful Merlot, a wine of remarkable distinction, balance and flavors. While Merlot may have taken a drubbing in the movie, Sideways (an entertaining pic, but fraught with innacuracies about wine), Merlot remains a true wine-lover’s wine, and the top selling wine in America. In the Bordeaux region of France, the birthplace of Merlot, the varietal remains the most widely planted. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes below for a complete profile of today’s great wine
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep ruby in color with concentrated color out to its edges, with great clarity through its deep heart of garnet, and wide-spaced chubby legs that are slow to develop
Smell – Deeply aromatic with soft to medium intensity black plum, blackberry, dark cherry, fresh sage, leather and soft oak
Feel – Initially very smooth with a medium roundness that becomes quickly grippy with medium tannins, medium to full-bodied with great intensity
Taste – Brightly layered flavors of deep black cherry, blackberry pie, fresh herbs, smoky mixed berries and the softest hints of leather and smoked meats
Finish – Very long with bright, mouth-coating flavors that linger and linger
Conclusion – This bright and delicious Merlot is fantastic! Its big flavor profile and sweet aromatics are in balance with the wines great acidity (making it a perfect companion for most foods) and great mouth-feel. Present here are all of the best qualities that Merlot has to offer, without being overly herbaceous or lacking in flavor. This is a wine fun-to-drink wine for serious wine lovers.
What follows is my original mission report, in which I first infiltrated Merryvale
Merryvale hosts their own ‘Wine Component Tasting’ seminar every Saturday & Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. The fourth weekend of every month is Merryvale’s ‘Food & Wine Pairing’ seminar.
These events provided me with the perfect opportunity for some close surveillance of this respected winery. I wasted no time and signed up for both, which actually proved to be not only deeply informative from a Wine Spies intel-gathering perspective, but also from a wine drinker’s perspective. The two events were also great fun and the Merryvale winery is amazing!
The Wine Spies strive to have a low impact on the environment, but Merryvale takes this sort of responsibility to an extreme. Wherever possible, The Wine Spies use earth-friendly materials such as pulp wine shippers and recycled packing materials. We drive hybrid spy cars, keep office lights dimmed or turned off during the day and we recycle relentlessly. Merryvale does all of these things – and way more.
On arrival at the Merryvale Vineyards facility, the first thing that I noticed were the seemingly acres of solar panels covering the rooftop of their 60,000 foot building.
Once inside for the morning component tasting, I learned that Merryvale completed the installation of its 277kW solar electric system in 1996, before being green was chic.
The solar array generates enough clean electricity each day to power nearly 80 homes and will spare the air nearly 473 tons of harmful greenhouse gases annually. Over the next 30 years, the air pollution saved will be equivalent to driving over 32 million miles.
The winery’s solar system will provide 90-100% of the winery’s electricity needs on an annual basis for the company’s 60,000 square foot building.
Merryvale’s foremost reason for installing the array is to utilize green energy. This is an effort that we applaud and one that we are happy to be seeing at more and more wineries these days.
The component tasting and the pairing seminar were both exceptional and I recommend these for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of wine. While the winery and the classes were great, far more impressive are Merryvale’s incredible wines.
The Merryvale Vineyards winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
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Awards & Accolades:
92 Points – Patterson’s Tasting Panel – The core Merryvale wines are expertly-crafted Napa Valley varietals, made with obvious care and attention in both the vineyard and the winery. Deep, and dark with rich plum, blackberry and spice; pure, racy acid structure and a long, lingering finish. A home run. – Anthony Dias Blue
Exceptional – Dan Berger’s Vintage Experiences – The aroma is bright with blue fruit, traces of tobacco and mint, and a lilting, seductive mid-palate with great acidity to pair with food. Fruit from Carneros and Oak Knoll. A startlingly superb red! – Dan Berger
91 Points – Wine Enthusiast – Steve Heimoff
About This Wine:
Our 2005 Merlot shows exceptional richness and depth with aromas of plums, roasted sage and sweet black cherries framed by mocha and toasted oak. The wine has a soft entry with notes of blackberry pie and fine tannins adding to the long finish.
About The Winery:
The first winery built in the Napa Valley following the repeal of Prohibition, Merryvale is located in the heart of America’s premier wine region. Graced with a European fountain and formal grounds, the historic winery is ideally located just 1/4 mile south of downtown St. Helena, Napa Valley — adjacent to renowned Tra Vigne restaurant and within easy walking distance of many other restaurants and shops.
In this celebrated home, the spirit of great winemaking thrives in the care of owner Jack W. Schlatter and his son, René Schlatter, Senior Winemakers Sean Foster and Larry Cherubino.
By maintaining the founding vision — To capture the essence of the region’s noble vineyards in rich, complex, supple wines rivaling the best in the world — Merryvale has earned international acclaim for wines of outstanding quality.
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.
BLEND: 100% Merlot
VINEYARDS: Oak Knoll District
APPELLATION: Napa Valley
WINEMAKING: Extended maceration on the skins. Partial native yeast fermentation. Bottled unfiltered
BARREL AGING: Aged 18 months in French oak (37% new)
ALCOHOL: 14.5% by volume
RELEASE DATE: February, 2008
PRODUCTION: 2,250 cases
CELLARING: This wine will age well for a decade and beyond.