2008 Carneros Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir •Stanly Ranch Vineyard
California: Napa Valley: Carneros
What We Say
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Mission Codename: The Only Show in Town
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Operative favorite, Merryvale, this time to recover a cache of their fabled Carneros Pinot Noir
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Merryvale Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2008 Carneros Pinot Noir
Winemakers: Sean Foster and Larry Cherubino
Backgrounder: We had the great fortune to be able to bring you Merryvale’s 2006 and 2007 Carneros Pinot Noir, so as soon as we received intel that 2008 was about to be released, we dispatched Agent Red to the winery, to secure an exclusive allotment for our Operatives – before the wine is made available to the general public.
Regional Backgrounder: Some of our favorite California Pinot Noir comes from the Carneros viticultural area, a winegrowing region which straddles the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. The cool Carneros region provides ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Pinot thrives here. Merryvale is a Wine Spies favorite and we are proud to bring you today’s very special limited-production wine. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report to learn more about this fantastic Pinot Noir.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep burgundy in color, with edges that fall off to a glimmering pink. When viewed from an angle, this wine has a slightly opaque look to it. However, view the wine from the top, or through the sides of the glass and you see something altogether different! The wine shows as perfectly clear, with beautifully concentrated color through its slightly darker heart. When swirled, the wine appears tight and springy, with a dynamic and snappy surface that settles quickly, leaving behind tight clusters of skinny legs that streak down the glass
Smell – Lush, bright and softly earthy, with dark cherry, cranberry, supple spice, subtle gunpowder, rhubarb and soft smoke
Feel – Light and soft up front, but only for a moment. Soon after sipping, supple tannins take gentle hold at the edges of the mouth, drying the mid palate, the tongue and the lips cheeks, with flinty minerality
Taste – Tart and juicy cherry, cranberry and soft white pepper spice, with follow-on flavors of cassis, cigar box, sweetwoods, subtle leather and chalky earth
Finish – A medium-length finish that is extended when the wine has been decanted. The wine starts darkly juicy and slightly tart. Then, soft spice appears as flavors gently tail off
Conclusion – We had the great fortune to bring you the previous two vintages of this wine. Each time, the wine was impressive and delicious. While today’s wine shows a little young, it shows fantastic promise. I find the wine completely ready to drink now, but I am excited about the bottles that I have stashed away in my cellar. Youthful and bright, with great, earthy flavors that remind me of a French Burgundy, this wine is delicious and good fun to drink. With great acidity, this is a great food wine that won’t muscle your finer meals to oblivion. Pair this great wine with nearly anything, and be sure to decant for at least 30 minutes for best enjoyment. I love Merryvale wines, and I love great Carneros Pinot Noir. What a pleasure it is when these two combine to deliver a fantastic Merryvale Carneros Pinot Noir!
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 remarkable Starmont facility can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Our Pinot Noir is bright ruby in color, and shows notes of sweet black cherry, tart red cherry, strawberry, cranberry, smoke, toast and a hint of vanilla and clove on the nose. Silky tannins and a rich mouthfeel are balanced with crisp acidity and toasty oak for a long finish. The wine will improve for several years, and pairs well with roast salmon and any dish featuring wild mushrooms.
Winemaking: The grapes for this wine come from the historic Stanly Ranch, in the Napa area of Carneros. Now coming into full maturity, the vineyard was planted in 2001 with newly available clones that are transforming the quality and character of Carneros Pinot Noir into richer and darker wines. The grapes were handpicked and carefully sorted. The wine was aged for twelve months in French Oak and bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Vintage: The 2008 vintage was a roller coaster ride from start to finish. The growing season started with a historic frost that resulted in some mild crop loss in the cooler areas, particularly with Chardonnay. Record high temperatures in May were abruptly followed by dry winds and then a cool rainy patch. With the lighter crop and warm, dry remainder of the growing season, ripening progressed ideally through harvest. The result is a slightly smaller crop in 2008 with above average to excellent quality.
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.
VINEYARDS: 100% Stanly Ranch Estate (45% Merryvale Estate, 55% Silverado Premium Properties)
WINEMAKING: Hand sorted, 3 days cold soak, Gently punched down and pumped over, 17 days on the skins, 12 months in French Oak (37% new), Bottled unfined and unfiltered
ALCOHOL: 14.8% by volume
RELEASE DATE: November 2009
PRODUCTION: 3,048 cases