Grapes sourced from the Oak Knoll and Los Carneros AVAs, in the cooler, southern half of Napa Valley. Whole-berry fermentation and cold soaking enhanced the rich fruit expression, while new French oak barrels added toasty nuances. Seared duck breast with mushrooms and wild rice, grilled brochette of lamb, and roast beef or pork with caramelized vegetables are just a few elegant pairings.
Appellation: Los Carneros, Oak Knoll
Aging: 21 months, French Oak, American Oak and Hungarian Oak (30% New Barrels, predominantly French)
Varietal Composition: 100% Merlot
Production: 7,483 cases
Complex aromas of satsuma plum, Bing cherry, mocha and caramel distinguish the 2010 Provenance Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot. The cool growing season, long hangtime and exceptional vineyards contributed vibrancy and layers of nuance to the rich, dark-fruit flavors. Plush tannins support the flavors, while hints of toasty oak spice and chocolate—from new French oak barrels—heighten the aromas and linger on the long, jammy finish.
Chris chose Merlot from vineyards in the Oak Knoll and Los Carneros American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) of Napa Valley, which have especially favorable conditions for this Bordeaux-heritage grape varietal. The Merlot grown in the Oak Knoll AVA gives the wine rich, ripe flavors and softer texture, while the cooler Los Carneros AVA—closer to the San Francisco Bay—contributes bright acidity. The different soil types found in the two appellations also add to the wine’s myriad of complex flavors.
The 2010 vintage—the first of two very cool growing seasons in Napa Valley—had the latest onset to harvest in several decades. Vigilant care in the vineyards is always important, but was even more so in 2010 to achieve high-quality fruit. We crushed the first grapes after Labor Day, more than two weeks later than average. This was due to above-average rainfall and cool temperatures that persisted into May, followed by a mostly cool, foggy summer that slowed fruit maturity. But just as we started worrying that the grapes would never ripen, Mother Nature surprised us with heat spells to boost their flavors and sugar levels. The long hangtime added up to exceptionally richly flavored wines with exquisite balance.
We quickly brought the hand-harvested grapes to our winery and destemmed the clusters, retaining 60 percent as whole berries to maximize fruitiness in the wine. For gentle extraction of varietal character and color, we cold soaked the must for two days before the two-week primary fermentation. Malolactic fermentation was conducted in barrels during 21 months of aging. We choose 30 percent new barrels to give enticing oak spice complexity to this generously fruity Merlot. The wine was gently clarified with four rackings during aging and then bottled without fining.