2005 Chardonnay, Carneros
Chardonnay •Merryvale Estate (Stanly Ranch), Hyde Vineyard
California: Carneros (Sonoma & Napa)
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT!:
We may not feature many white wines, but when we do, you can be assured that they are truly something special .
This wine is off the market, but we got our hands on a final allocation. How? We can’t tell you. Our secret is your reward.
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Mission Codename: Do you know the way to Chardonnay?
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Return to Operative favorite, Merryvale, this time to recover a exclusive allocation cache of their fabled Carneros Chardonnay
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Merryvale Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2006 Carneros Chardonnay
Winemakers: Sean Foster and Larry Cherubino
Backgrounder: Carneros Chardonnay is now revered for its quality, elegance and smoothness. The Carneros viticultural area, a winegrowing region which straddles the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, has been a great source of wine that we have featured here. Always, those wine have been of supreme quality. The cool Carneros region provides ideal growing conditions for Chardonnay and Chardonnay literally thrives there. Merryvale is a Wine Spies favorite and we are proud to bring you today’s special exclusive wine. Read Agent Whites’s tasting notes and mission report to learn more about this great Chardonnay
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Bright golden yellow with perfect clarity and glistening edges, with fat legs that take forever to emerge before the move slowly down the glass
Smell – Wonderfully expressive and bright with tropical fruit, citrus, peach, mango, soft spices, soft white flowers.
Feel – Terrific mouthfeel that is round, light and smooth up front, then softly grippy and dense at the edges of the mouth and mid-palate as soft tannins gently take hold
Taste – Bright and fruity with layers of fruit. Green apple, pineapple, pear, starfruit and softest nutmeg are present here
Finish – Long and lush, flavors and aromas taper off in equal proportion with a slight dryness and a light flinty minerality that makes your mouth water
Conclusion – This is a great Chardonnay from Merrvale and we are proud to have gotten our hands on their final cases. We don’t feature many Chardonnay’s here, but when we do, you know that we are really taken by them. Today’s wine is lush and full, with great expressive aromas and flavors. No flab or overly buttery Chard here. Rather, this is a wine that is richly structured and long on character. Merryvale took their time with this wine, tsarting with tender care of the grapes in their vineyards. At harvest, the grapes for this wine are meticulously sorted. The vinification regimen was also a labor of love, with the wine spending 15 months in French Oak, the first seven primary lees. The wine was stirred monthly until it was carefully blended, then went on to spend and additional 10 months, unstirred, on light lees. The care with which Merryvale shines through in each of its wine creations – particularly with today’s great Chardonnay.
What follows is my original mission report, in which Agent Red 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
Merryvale Vineyards, Member, Napa Valley Vintners
Awards & Accolades:
91 Points – Wine Enthusiast – There’s something tight and minerally and acidic about this Chardonnay that will appeal to connoisseurs of austere wines. Even though the oak is nearly one-half new, the wine has a lean, lemony taste, with nuances of crème brûlée and roasted hazelnuts. Defines food-friendly elegance, and could develop bottle complexity over the next 5 years. – Steve Heimoff
92 Points – The Wine News – The Tasting Panel
“The best of the year… so far” – Sacramento Bee – The white wine sweepstakes round at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition early this year had 16 wines seven of them remarkably chardonnay. Anyone predicting the outcome would have figured votes would have split amoung the chardonnay partisans opeing the way for a sauvignon blanc, gewurztraminer or other varietal to win. Didn’t happen… The Merryvale strolled off with the honor on the basis of its complex fruit flavors coupled with its keen balance. – Mike Dunne
About This Wine:
The grapes for our signature Chardonnay are carefully sorted, whole cluster pressed and barrel fermented. The wine spends 15 months in French Oak, with the first seven months on primary lees, stirred monthly until blending and ten additional months on light lees, unstirred.
The 2005 harvest was one of great extremes. A very wet spring provided a lot of potential for a big harvest of very juicy fruit. A fantastic Indian summer resulted in long hang times which allowed the grapes to mature at a leisurely pace giving us outstanding character. The result at harvest was thick skins and great flavors at moderate alcohol.
This Chardonnay expresses notes of peach, tropical fruits, including papaya and mango, along with baked apple and baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and Cardamom). The wine is rich and dense in the mid palate with a long elegant finish. Enjoy this wine with roasted chicken, pasta with a cream sauce or lobster.
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% Chardonnay
VINEYARDS: Merryvale Estate (Stanly Ranch), Hyde Vineyard
APPELLATION: Carneros, Napa Valley
WINEMAKING: Triple sorted, whole-cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented, 100% natural yeast, 100% malolactic fermentation, Bottled unfiltered
BARREL AGING: 15 months in 100% French Oak barrels
ALCOHOL: 14.5% by volume
RELEASE DATE: August, 2007
BOTTLING DATE: July, 2007
PRODUCTION: 3,000 cases
CELLARING: Three years from release to reach maturity, with a plateau for another five years after that.