2005 Napa Valley Merlot
California: Napa Valley
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Wow! Today’s Merlot is *_fantastic*_. What more can we say?
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Mission Codename: Heartfeldt
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Ahnfeldt Wines of Napa, California. This time retrieve their astonishingly great 2005 Napa Valley Merlot
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Ahnfeldt Wines
Wine Subject: 2005 Ahnfeldt Wines Merlot
Winemaker: Craig MacLean
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, outpacing all other varietals. Merlot is sincere wine for serious wine drinkers. If you have never had a great Merlot, we encourage you to embrace today’s superb example. Read Agent Red’s mission report, immediately following his tasting notes.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep garnet. When held up to the light, the wine shows a heart of pure, clear ruby. When swirled, this wine shows off a tight surface that settles fast, but keeps spinning at its core. When it does settle, it leaves behind a cascade of skinny legs that take a long time to emerge – before the crawl slowly down the glass
Smell – Dusky, deep and ultra-lush, with rich aromas of dark cherry, overripe blackberry, red plum, sweetwoods and mild spices. Under these are mild hints of earth, mushroom and tomato stem
Feel – Soft, plush and very round, this wine start light at first and then grips gently at the edges of the mouth and cheeks as it coats the mouth all over. The wine shows off balanced tannins that introduce a slight dryness, making your mouth water
Taste – This wine leads off with a dark rush of mixed red and black fruit from the nose, with beautiful pronounced flavors that really shine through on the mid-palate, making the wine not only delicious, but also very interesting in the mouth
Finish – Very long and ultra-plush, with big mid-palate flavors that linger long after the wine is gone
Conclusion – Gorgeous! This is another great wine from our good friends at Ahnfeldt. Bruce and his team prove their prowess each time we show their wines here. Today’s Merlot is a superb example of just how incredible a well-built Merlot can be. We tasted the wine blind here at Wine Spies HQ. All of our Agents were blown away by the wine, commenting on how tasty and well-balanced is was. Overall, this wine provides a superbly well-rounded experience, delivering a drinking experience that is not only tasty, but also unique and great fun. The mid-palate rush of flavors is an experience on it’s own. Couple this with the wine’s deep aromatic profile, great flavors and tender feel and you have a wine that delivers a fantastic drinking experience.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Craig MacLean
DATE OF BIRTH: April 14, 1958
PLACE OF BIRTH: San Diego
WINE EDUCATION: B.S. in Plant Science U.C. Davis; M.S. in Enology U.C. Davis
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Make wines that exhibit intensity, complexity and balance. Most important is balance: balance of tannin/acidity/alcohol; balance of age-ability/food pairing/approachability.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Bordeaux Blends
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Making the Wine Spectator Merlot of the Year (Ahnfeldt 2002 Merlot – 94 pts)
WINEMAKER QUOTE: There may be some objectivity to wine quality, but it really comes down to what you enjoy. It’s also true that you become more objective with more experience.
AGENT RED: Greetings, Craig. We are thrilled to be showing your 2004 Ahnfeldt Cab today. We LOVE the wine. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
CRAIG: My pleasure.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
CRAIG: I joke around and say that I went from Budweiser to Bordeaux overnight. I was introduced to mainly European wines when I was 25 years old and later got into California wines. I love both, but there’s a certain elegance and finesse to European wines that I really appreciate. I very much enjoy California wines that have that quality as well.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
CRAIG: My UC Davis enology education created a wonderful foundation of winemaking technical knowledge. As far as the actual winemaking aspect, I am always learning and there is no end to it.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
CRAIG: My goal is to make wines that reflect the individual vineyard and vintage; wines that have a a sense of place; concentration and elegance, power and finesse, and above all balance.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
CRAIG: Wines that completely blew my mind at the time were the 1980 Ridge “York Creek” Cabernet Sauvignon (tasted in 1984 when I entered the master’s program at Davis); and the 1990 Chateau Margaux (tasted in 1994 while winemaker at Cain). I have always wanted to make wines that have that much concentration and elegance.
RED: How long have you been making wine?
CRAIG: My first winemaking position was in 1990 at Cain.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
CRAIG: I make wines based on my palate and what a vineyard tells me the wines from there want to be.
RED: Tell me, what makes the Napa Valley so special?
CRAIG: Napa Valley has one of the best winemaking climates on earth. But, ultimately it’s the people that make the place. There are so many great people in this business. It’s a tight-knit community and many of my friends are also involved directly in buying and selling wine products like barrels and grapes.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
CRAIG: Go for it, be patient, trust your gut, and pace yourself.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
CRAIG: On the front burner is bottling, on the back burner is the 2009 harvest. It’s looks like it could be an amazing year, for those who know how to make wine in a cool year.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
CRAIG: It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from two vineyards in the south-east corner of Napa – the Coombsville District. The relatively cool conditions there allow for long hang-times which result in dark, concentrated wines. I blended in 8% Merlot from the amazing Hardman vineyard for complexity and softness.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
CRAIG: Medium-rare Rib-eye with a shallot/shitake/cabernet reduction sauce accompanied with oven roasted baby pink potatoes and a side of greens like broccoli rabe.
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
CRAIG: I used to be a competitive roller skater
RED: What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
CRAIG: Sauvignon Blanc, you can find a style for every meal or drink it by itself while cooking.
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
CRAIG: In general, see how long you can hold a wine in your mouth before it becomes dilute or when your palate is overwhelmed by the tannins, acid or alcohol. Mostly, you’ll find that you can hold my wines in your mouth for a looooong time. Again, balance.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
CRAIG: Chateau D’Yquem
RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?
CRAIG: What’s the most important thing about wine? Answer: it brings people together and helps us deal with the stress of modern life.
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!
CRAIG: *Thank you, Red.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the vineyard where today’s wine was born can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
It’s not always easy to explain why some vineyards are great for certain varieties, but the Ahnfeldt Hardman vineyard is certainly an amazing Merlot vineyard year after year. The 2005 vintage is a wonderful example of the power potential of this vineyard. Dark ruby red color, saturated rim, cherry, black cherry, toasty oak with notes of cassis, vanilla and raspberry. The entry is full, round, and intense with loads of fruit and a great mid-palate. The mouth coating tannins and moderate acidity create a lingering finish.
About The Winery:
Bruce Ahnfeldt moved to the Napa Valley in the mid 1980’s. While Ahnfeldt Wines did not begin until 2002, the Ahnfeldts developed and planted their first Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in 1985.
Since developing and planting that first vineyard, they have planted five more vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes in the Napa Valley.
Grapes from the Ahnfeldt vineyards have been sold to BV (Bealieu), Markham, Sterling, Kendal Jackson and Hagafen wineries. These mature vineyards produce such fine quality grapes, that they are now used in their wines.
Bruce’s experience in agriculture goes back to his teenage years. For a number of years, he and his brother leased and farmed ten acres of apricot orchards in Los Altos Hills, California, now known as the world famous Silicon Valley. This early exposure to the joys of farming instilled a passion and love for agriculture which years later manifested itself in developing wonderful vineyards.
The symbol for Ahnfeldt Wines is a stone carving of their first Friesian horse “Dutch” (Registered name Nanne V.D. Wurdgyk) who was imported from Holland summer of 2003. Soon after acquiring him the idea for their logo was born and developed from the picture as seen above. Since then they have gotten two more Friesian horses. Bengt, their daughter Haley’s horse whom she calls “Comet” and most recently, “Taling R.” (pet name Bouvier). “Dutch” will be forever remembered and immortalized on our label.
About The Winemaker:
Craig MacLean is the winemaker for Ahnfeldt Wines. He has extensive experience with Bordeaux style wines. Craig is one of the very few winemakers in the Napa Valley with a Masters Degree in Enology.
Craig was born and raised in San Diego, California. After he graduated from high school, he attended Grossmonth Community College. Three years later he transferred to the University of California at Davis and majored in Plant Science. The first stint at U.C. Davis resulted in a Bachelor’s Degree in 1982. In 1984 Craig went back to U.C. Davis and entered the graduate program in Enology. He received his Master of Science degree in 1987. During his last year at Davis, he worked the crush at Chappellet Winery. Upon graduation in June of the following year he went to work at Markham Vineyards as assistant winemaker. When Bruce Markham sold his winery to a huge company in 1989 Craig moved on to Cain Cellars as the assistant winemaker. Early the next year the winemaker switched careers and Craig was promoted to that position in April of 1990. There he continued the tradition of the highly acclaimed CAIN FIVE, and helped launch the CUVEE and MUSQUE wines as well. 1994 Craig accepted the winemaker position down the hill at Spring Mountain Vineyard and worked there for the next four vintages, helping to resurrect that great old property. He left Spring Mountain in July 1998.
At the end of 1997 Craig entered into a partnership with some friends and created Kelham MacLean wines that included Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc from the Oakville bench. In early 2001 Craig sold his interest in the company and concentrated his energy on his consulting clients, and began plans to make wine under his own name, which he started with 2001 vintage.