White Cottage Ranch Winery (CLOSED)

2005 Howell Mountain Merlot

Merlot •Estate Vineyard

California: Napa Valley: Howell Mountain

Offer Expired:Sep 02, 2009 at 11:59 pm
Avg. Price

What We Say


At 25% off, today’s wine is a stellar value on a stellar wine


For today’s wine, we raided White Cottage – and absconded with the final bottles in their stash


Today’s stellar Merlot is a remarkable treat. Yes, it is so incredible, that it deserved this special designation.


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Mission Codename: Since 1898

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to White Cottage Ranch. This time, retreive the remaining stores of their amazingly fantastic Howell Mountain Merlot

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: White Cottage Ranch

Wine Subject: 2005 Merlot, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley

Winemaker: Rudy Zuidema

Backgrounder: The Howell Mountain region in the Napa Valley is the birthplace of some of our very favorite wines. We fell in love early on and we have not been disappointed by a high-elevation Howell Mountain wine yet. Today’s wine is a made from a blend of mountain fruit and fruit from the floor of the valley, imbuing the wine with a balanced best of both worlds flair.

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 all other varietals. Merlot is sincere wine for serious wine drinkers. If you think that Merlot is not for you, forget everything that you think you know about Merlot and embrace this spectacular example. Read Agent Red’s mission report, immediately following his tasting notes.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deeply concentrate burgundy in color, with ruby edges. The wine shows a tightly bouncy surface that settles quickly when swirled. When it settles, it leaves behind thin legs that start slow, but then gain momentum as they finally speed down the glass

Smell – Deeply layered with lush and rich aromas of red cherry, raspberry and bright blackberry leading the way. These beautiful aromatics sit right atop fresh red rose, eucalyptus, India black tea leaf, soft cedar and dried fall leaves

Feel – A fantastic mouthfeel that begins light and wet, up front, then round and gently grippy as soft tannins emerge, giving the wine a softly dry mineral feel

TasteDelicious! This wine starts with a dark rush ripe stonefruit of sweet plum, dark cherry, and pluot. These are quickly followed by bright red cherry, strawberry, fresh salad herbs, dried leaves and a subtle cigar box with slate

Finish – Big flavors last forever as the wine slowly tails off, turning from dusky and dark to more sweet and earthen. This progression is long and inviting of further exploration of this great wine

Conclusion – If you love great Merlot, scroll up and click that buy button! This is a wine that you will fall in love with. With deep, rich and exciting flavors, a perfect mouthfeel and aromatics that had me sniffing for 10 minutes before I even took my first sip, this is a wine to go bonkers for. Rudy Zuidema’s passionate personality is apparent all throughout this wine. His love for his craft shines through in a way that is hard to describe if you have not had the good fortune to meet the man, but trust me, this wine is Rudy in a bottle! I give this great Merlot my highest recommendation. Pair it with almost anything, or simply sip it on it’s own. Heck, do both. Cheers!

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Rudy Zuidema

DATE OF BIRTH: 11/24/67

PLACE OF BIRTH: Sacramento, CA


CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Winemaker/Vineyard Manager

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Grow better grapes, do less wine “making”

SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Cabernet Sauvignon / Sauvignon Blanc

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Feature Article/Photo in Wine Spec on 06 SB

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Poured 2002 Cabernet to the “Mayor” of Tokyo

WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”My wine should be easy enough to drink in the movie theater.”


AGENT RED: Greetings, Rudy. You are quickly becoming one of our very favorite winemakers! We are thrilled to be showing your stupendous 2005 Merlot today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

RUDY: As always, I am happy to be part of the spies’ family.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

RUDY: Working in the small village of Villvyrac in the south of France. Hearing and feeling the depth of passion these villagers had for their local co-op wine, when it was soooooooo bad.

RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?

RUDY: So many experiences…. One that I use daily is from Ben Riggs down in Australia. He told me that “just good enough” never is!

RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?

RUDY: Let Mother Nature be tasted. More holistic, natural, authentic wines get me excited. Recipes are boring.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

RUDY: Dennis Johns, my original mentor, taught me mostly about balance. In wine, grapes, winemaking, life and so much more.

RED: How long have you been making wine?

RUDY: 2009 is my 20th vintage. I can’t believe it!!!

RED: Who do you make wine for?

RUDY: I make wine that my wife and I will love to drink together. She is very critical, so if I get past her with a wine, I know there will be plenty that will enjoy it.

RED: Tell me, what makes the Howell Mountain region so special?

RUDY: Howell Mountain is very unique. There is no wonder it was the first sub-appellation of Napa Valley. It is a rugged mountain where vines struggle early on in the season and late into harvest. There is integrity in wines from here since they have travelled a tough road to the bottle.

RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?

RUDY: Smell, taste. ask questions, repeat, repeat, repeat. Also know how to clean a drain properly before you think you’re a winemaker.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

RUDY: 2009 Sauv Blanc is in tank and we just bottled the 2007 Estate Reserve, Cab Franc, and Sangiovese.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today

RUDY: Mountain Merlot. This one does not have training wheels on it. This is a concentrated, full bodied Merlot that will go toe to toe with any Cabernet.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

RUDY: Grilled Pork Chop with roasted potatoes and a rich fruity sauce.

RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know

RUDY: I can iron the nastiest pleated skirt, dress, or any article of clothing to perfection!

RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?

RUDY: I drink whites for everyday wine. Garganega from Soave, or Gavi de Gavi, both from Italy are so easy.

RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?

RUDY: With no expectations. I hope you like them, but if you don’t, stop drinking them and try something else.

RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?

RUDY: Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz

RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?

RUDY: Q: When are we getting together for golf? A: tomorrow morning

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

RUDY: Go get ’em Winespies!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Howell Mountain region in Napa County can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

About This Wine:

This is our second vintage of estate Merlot. It is a beautiful color, with aromas of raspberry, eucalyptus and cherry, followed by flavors of red fruit, tea and a little nutmeg, which comes from the rich oak. This is a beautifully balanced wine with firm tannins and a creamy cherry finish that ends cleanly. It is a great match for the steaks on the grill or the summertime fruit salad!

About The Winery:

Dennis and Adele Johns grew up together as high school sweethearts in St. Helena, the heart of Napa Valley. As the winemaker at St. Clement Vineyards for twenty years, Dennis established his reputation as an innovative and highly respected winemaker.

In the search to begin their own vineyard and winery, Dennis and Adele discovered that the last 65 acres of White Cottage Ranch, a historic 5000 acre cattle ranch dating from the 1800’s, was for sale.

The most outstanding factor of the property was that this land was on Howell Mountain, an area recognized for growing exceptional red wine varietals for over 100 years. Dennis and Adele’s firm belief that fine wines are ‘grown’ and not just vinted, coupled with plans to produce high quality red wines, forged the 1989 purchase of White Cottage Ranch.

In 1990, five different variations of resistant rootstock were planted based on the soil profiles. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were budded in 1991. The first crop was in 1993. Subsequently, they have added Sangiovese, Zinfandel and Syrah.

A new winery was finished in the summer of 2005 and is now open by appointment to taste.

The family produces small amounts of artisan crafted wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Zinfandel and a Sangiovese-Zinfandel blend they call “Ezivese”.

About The Winemaker:

Rudy Zuidema has quickly worked his way up the ladder of a winemaking career. After graduating from U.C. Davis in 1991 with a degree in Plant Science and Agricultural Management, and a harvest with Wirra Wirra, Australia under his belt, he started as an entry-level cellar man at St. Clement Vineyards. There he found the ultimate mentor, then winemaker Dennis Johns. At that point, Rudy decided that he would be making wine for the rest of his life, and also discovered and began to develop a winemaking style that embraces a balanced fusion of concentrated fruits, rich aromatics and seamless textures.

After St. Clement, Rudy took his next steps in cellar management at Cuvaison Winery, and then moved on to an assistant winemaking position at Honig Winery, followed by a seven-year stint as head winemaker for Robert Craig Wine Cellars. Working with specialized varietals from each of these spectacular properties, and exploring the range of growing and winemaking techniques a single grape can inspire, Rudy finds his work a labor of love.

At White Cottage Ranch, Rudy also manages the estate organic and biodynamic-farming program.

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