This special bottling comes from two exceptional Napa Valley vineyards: the Las Amigas Vineyard in the Los Carneros AVA and a vineyard located on the sloping benchlands of the Oak Knoll AVA. The influence of cool breezes from the San Francisco Bay fosters rich, yet bright, Merlot flavors. Cold soaking the destemmed grapes accentuated the wine’s fruitiness, while barrel aging married oak spices with Merlot’s dark berry flavors. The blend is made from a selection of fourteen barrels of Merlot that showed especially distinctive “sense of place” flavors and plush texture.
Appellation: Oak Knoll, Los Carneros, Calistoga
Barrel Aging: 21 Months, French Oak and Hungarian Oak (45% New)
Varietal Composition: 96% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc
Production: 323 cases
Generous, bright red currant, black cherry and dark plum character—laced with Earl Gray tea, spice and dark chocolate nuances—fill the aromas of our 2012 Barrel Select Merlot. The sumptuous red and black-fruit flavors expand across the palate in layers of textured velvet. Hints of vanilla and baking spice from aging in French oak barrels add even more complexity to the long, rich finish. With its softer structure and enticing fruitiness, this Merlot makes a versatile companion to both red and white meats. Great pairings include lamb kabobs with cracked wheat; roast turkey with hazelnut stuffing; roast pork loin rubbed with autumn spices; or grilled eggplant, peppers and mushrooms.
Our winemakers tasted every single barrel of our Merlot to make this fourteen-barrel blend that captures the distinctive array of flavors and plush mouthfeel that Merlot develops in the relatively cooler regions of Napa Valley. Our 2012 Barrel Select Merlot is composed of two Merlot vineyards—one located in the Los Carneros and one in the Oak Knoll American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). The Los Carneros AVA is in the southern-most reaches of Napa Valley, closest to the San Francisco Bay, while the Oak Knoll AVA is just a little further up-valley. Both regions have cooling influences from the Bay and well-drained soils, which slow the ripening of Merlot for full flavor maturity and supple tannins. The Cabernet Franc comes from one of our favorite vineyards in Calistoga.
The relaxed, high-quality 2012 harvest was a winemaker’s dream. The ideal growing season—well-timed rains, no frost during budbreak, and perfect weather for bloom, berry-set and ripening—was textbook Napa Valley. Long stretches of sunny days coupled with foggy nights gave our 2012 wines exceptionally rich, expressive flavors and impeccable balance. We had no weather pressures from either pending rains or excessive heat to rush the harvest. Instead we had the luxury of waiting until the grapes reached absolutely perfect maturity.
We hand-harvested the Merlot clusters into half-ton bins to minimize crushing and then quickly brought them to our winery. We then destemmed the grapes maintaining approximately 60 percent whole berries to maximize fruitiness during fermentation. For gentle extraction of varietal character, we cold soaked the must for two days before the two-week fermentation. Aging in predominantly new French and Hungarian oak barrels wove vanilla and toasty oak nuances through the lush, silky flavors.