Topel Winery

2005 Le Mariage Meritage

Red Blend •Estate Vineyard

California: Mendocino County

Offer Expired:Oct 12, 2009 at 11:59 pm
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Mission Codename: You can’t topple Topel

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Revisit Sawyer Cellars to ensure Agent Red hasn’t lost his marbles.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Topel Winery

Wine Subject: 2005 Meritage

Winemaker: Donnis Topel


Meritage wines grew out of a dissatisfaction with the requirement that US regulations required that varietal wines contain at least 75% of a varietal in order to be called by that name. Thus, in 1988 in Napa Valley, the Meritage Association was formed creating a special class of wines made in the tradition of the great wines of Bordeaux. In order to qualify as a Meritage wine, not only does the winery have to be a member of the association, but the blend, using traditional Bordeaux varietals must contain at least two varietals with any one varietal not exceeding 90% of the blend. Today’s exceptional selection is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc, making it a classic Left Bank style wine with true California flair and style

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Dark garnet with bright ruby highlights that sparkle at the edges of this wine. On swirling this wine, the surface has a heavy and bouncy look. When the wine settles down, it leaves behind wide-spaced legs that start chubby and slow – and then gain speed and become skinny

Smell – Bold in intensity with dark aromas of ripe cherry, blackberry, ripe raspberry, young strawberry and plum. These are balanced over complex notes of soft spice, tomato vine, dark chocolate and a hint of toasted vanilla

Feel – Smooth and slightly dry, this medium to full-bodied blend shows medium-firm tannins and an easy acidity that gives the wine a fine balance between soft and slightly tangy/spicy

Taste – Lush and ripe, with loving flavors of blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, blueberry and plum. These are carefully balanced against flavors of dark licorice, toasted vanilla, oak, soft spice and herbal components

Finish – Layered and long in length with lingering flavors of red fruit, spice, licorice and mild sweetwoods that softly fade, inviting additional sips

Conclusion – The 2005 Topel Meritage is delicious and lovely wine that shows off the great fruit and careful blending that Topel achieves so beautifully. This wine is elegance and great finesse, without sacrificing complexity or character. With softness and balanced acidity, this superb example of a great Meritage is also an excellent companion to most meals. Serve it with a serious meal, or with lighter fare. Plush, soft flavors make this wine ideal for anything you can pair it with.

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Mark Topel

DATE OF BIRTH: January 11, 1945

PLACE OF BIRTH: Chicago, Illinois

WINE EDUCATION: Self- taught. Audited courses at UC Davis, mentored by some of the finest CA winemakers who are good friends, and OJT.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Winemaker, Topel Winery 1996 – Present

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Minimal intrusion. Let the grapes express themselves.

SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Cabernet Sauvignon

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Tremendous positive feedback from satisfied customers

WINEMAKER QUOTE: “Each vintage is like a new and unique poem—handcrafted and polished to perfection”


AGENT RED: Greetings, Mark. We are thrilled to be showing your exceptional 2005 Meritage today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.


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

MARK: 1962/63 Penfolds Grainge Hermitage, discovered while I was in Australia, trying a legal case.

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

MARK: From my co-winemakers whose families had been working with grapes from our area for five generations.

RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?

MARK: Minimal intrusion to allow the grapes to express themselves in the most profound manner possible.

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

MARK: Three; The aforementioned Penfolds Grainge Hermitage style, Harlan’s Red Table Wine—Merlot/Cabernet Blend, and Chuck Wagner’s Caymus Special Select.

RED: How long have you been making wine?

MARK: Since 1993

RED: Who do you make wine for?

MARK: Simply, ourselves and our customers

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

MARK: There are no shortcuts, no tricks, only hard work, long hours, and dedication to perfection.

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

MARK: This wine was a blending dream. Donnis and I sat in the winery for Christmas week of 2006, blending various combinations of our Bordeaux varietals. And then, magic! One of the blends began singing, and that blend became the 2005 Meritage. The Petit Verdot gave it brightness, in perfect balance with the flavors of the other varietals.

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

MARK: Rack of Lamb with a rich brown sauce reduction, very savory wild mushroom and wild rice combination

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

MARK: 2006 Topel Estate Blend

RED: We’ll have to feature that one, next! How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?

MARK: In a not-too-serious, but appreciative mode, reflecting an understanding that they are about to experience a very pleasurable product, which has resulted from lots of loving and joyful careful preparation.

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!

MARK: Thank a lot, Agent Red. We are sure that your Operatives will love our Metitage.

What the Winery Says

About This Wine:

Our 2005 vintage Le Mariage is a complex, deeply flavored and utterly delicious blend — every bit as wonderful as its acclaimed predecessor.

The 2005 harvest in the Topel Estate vineyards yielded an abundance of Cabernet Sauvignon and excellent crops of Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc — classic grape varieties that compose a perfect Meritage. Our 2005 vintage Le Mariage is a complex, deeply flavored and utterly delicious blend — every bit as wonderful as its acclaimed predecessor. Le Mariage is the French translation for “marriage.” It’s a perfect name for this wine, as we particularly love the way the high cherry tones of the Petit Verdot “marry” with the deep licorice flavors of the Cabernets and Merlot.

Production Notes: We harvested the grapes for this Meritage in the second and third weeks of October. Each grape variety was fermented separately in very small lots that were punched down by hand four to five times a day for maximum color and flavor. As each fermentation finished, it was pressed off into 50% new French oak barrels (Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc into Demptos; Merlot and Petit Verdot into Francois Freres). We then carefully aged the wines for 24 months before assembling the final blend. Once bottled, the wine was aged an additional six months before its release in March of 2008.

About The Winery:

All Topel wines are lovingly handcrafted by Mark and Donnis, who employ minimalist techniques to transform simple grape juice into world-class wines that are robust, yet balanced and elegant — soulful wines that perfectly reflect the soil and climate of their origin.

At Topel Winery, the art of making wine begins within 15 minutes after the grapes are harvested, with a “field crush” right in the vineyard. The grapes are then transported immediately to the winery to begin their transformation into wine.

Topel Winery uses the highest quality fruit from our estate vineyards and from selected sites that grow grapes to our stringent standards, for making our different varietals.

Technical Analysis:

Varietal Composition: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc

Vintage: 2005

Wine Type: Red Wine

Varietal: Red Blend

Harvest Date: Late October 2005

Sugar: Average Brix: 25.8

Acid: .65

PH: 3.70

Fermentation: Unfiltered

Alcohol: 14.2%

Production: 590 Cases

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