Donati Family Vineyard
Meritage •Donati Family Vineyard
California: San Benito County: Paicines
What We Say
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Mission Codename: Operation California Meritage
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Identify the Best California Meritage Wines
Mission Status: Ongoing
Current Winery: Donati Family Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2003 Meritage
Awards: Silver Medal – 2006 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
Wine Brief: A great Bordeaux style table wine with a character that’s easy to get along with.
This wine is a Meritage blend of Bordeaux style wines. In the case of this fantastic wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec
What Is Meritage? Here is an excerpt from the American Meritage Society website:
In 1988, a group of American vintners formed The Meritage Association to identify hand-crafted wines blended from the traditional “noble” Bordeaux varietals including: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot and Malbec or Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Sauvignon Vert. Most American wines are labeled after the grape variety that comprises at least 75% of that wine. A label with “Cabernet Sauvignon” indicates that the wine is comprised of 75% or more of the grape variety Cabernet Sauvignon.
Many winemakers, however, believed the varietal requirement did not necessarily result in the highest quality wine from their vineyards. “Meritage” was coined to identify wines that represent the highest form of the winemaker’s art, blending, and distinguish these wines from the more generic moniker “red table wine.”
“Meritage,” pronounced like “heritage,” was selected from more than 6,000 entries in an international contest to name the new wine category. Meritage is an invented word that combines “merit” and “heritage” — reflecting the spirit of members of The Meritage Association.
Donati Winemaker Dan Kleck has been producing premium wines for the past 28 years. He began his career in the mid-1970’s, in the Long Island region of New York. In 1998, he migrated west to California, crafting elite Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from select premium estate vineyards in Monterey County.
The Donati Family Winery in Paso Robles is designed to capture the quality of the estate fruit in a state-of-the-art facility. The winery is a great place to enjoy a beautiful day at the vineyard.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Garnet red
Smell – Smoked vanilla, spice, lemon and ripe plum
Feel – All over mouth smoothness, easy tannins
Taste – Plum, cherry, tart
Finish – Long finish, with lingering flavors of smoked plum
Conclusion – If you are looking for a dinner wine that is great for entertaining – or as a stand by for those moments when you don’t want to break out the $80 bottle. This is a sensible wine with enough character and enough structure to go well with food, but could also be enjoyed on its own.
Wine Spies Vineyard Background Check:
Vineyard – The Donatis selected a unique site for their vineyard plantings. They diligently researched and identified clones and blocks that would be capable of developing into Spy-worthy wines in the cellar. With perfect fruit health and absolute ripeness, the wines crafted from the Donati Estate Vineyard are rich in character and nuance.
The Donati Family Estate Vineyard site enjoys a variety of soils from limestone to decomposed granite to clay loam. And like other coastal growing areas, has access to the cooling ocean breezes off the Monterey Bay. Like much of southern Napa, Sonoma, and Monterey counties, Paicines enjoys long warm days followed by cool nights.
The vineyard is planted to various select clones of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc and Petite Verdot and can be seen in this satellite photo.
Wine Spies Technical Analysis:
Appellation: Paicines (San Benito County, California)
Bottling Date: June 2005
Time In Oak: 20 months
Varietal: Meritage 64% Cabernet Sauvignon / 27% Merlot / 7% Cabernet Franc / 2% Malbec
Production: 1,100 Cases Produced
What the Winery Says
VINEYARD Carefully selected lots from our best Estate Vineyard plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec are utilized in the crafting of this elite blend. All vineyard blocks destined for our Meritage wine program are fruit-thinned to allow for exceptional ripening potential.
HARVEST Timing the pick at optimal pigmentation and flavor potential, we seek to achieve grapes that are rich in tannin and with dense fruit structure. This combination allows us to produce a wine of powerful intensity, yet with supple phenolics for a silky mouthfeel.
AGING Aged for a minimum of 20 months in oak, our Meritage is allowed to mature slowly in cask. Using tight-grained wood sources from select premium forests for our barrel program, we are able to gracefully achieve a complexity of style that focuses upon the best expression of fruit character partnered with elegant, complementary notes of vanilla, smoke and spice derived from the cooperage.
FINISHING Several months prior to bottling, a final blend was created using 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec. After blending, the wine was rebarreled for three months to allow the final component flavors to seamlessly integrate into a harmonious whole. The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered, in June, 2005.
WINEMAKER NOTES Creating a top-quality Red Meritage requires a dedicated vineyard management team focused upon delivering true expression of flavor from each of the component varieties. When that synergy works, the resulting wine represents the highest possible manifestation of that vineyard’s site and quality potential. The 2003 Donati Family Vineyard Meritage, a classic Bordeaux blend, truly shows the strength of character and integrity of quality that is the primary focus of our winemaking effort. - Dan Kleck, Spring 2005