Whole-berry fermentation and cold soaking enhanced the rich fruit expression, while barrel aging added toasty oak nuances. Merlot grapes sourced from the Los Carneros and Oak Knoll AVAs, in the cooler, southern half of Napa Valley. Spicy lamb meatballs, roasted duck with cherry sauce, chicken thighs grilled with red peppers and onions, and steak with mushrooms are a few delicious pairings. Aging in French, American and Hungarian oak barrels softened the tannins as it added toasty oak spice.
Appellation: Los Carneros, Oak Knoll
Aging: 21 months, 65% French Oak, 25% American Oak, 10% Hungarian Oak (30% New Barrels)
Varietal Composition: 95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon
Silky and elegant, the 2013 Napa Valley Merlot gracefully reveals its fruit-driven character of ripe cherry and blackberry compote. Hints of dark chocolate and hazelnut meld with a savory edge of pipe tobacco and bay leaf. The well-knit acidity enlivens the mouth-filling flavors, while supple tannins frame the wine and give age worthiness. Complex baking spice nuances from three types of oak barrels—French, American and Hungarian—weave through this Merlot’s generous varietal expression.
We choose 70 percent of the grapes from our Los Amigos Vineyard in the Los Carneros and 25 percent from the Oak Knoll American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) of Napa Valley. The Merlot grown in the cool Los Carneros AVA—closer to the San Francisco Bay—contributes bright flavors and acidity, while Merlot grapes from the Oak Knoll AVA gives the wine rich, ripe flavors and softer texture. We selected five percent Cabernet Sauvignon from Wooden Valley, which lies in the eastern side of the Napa Valley appellation. The different soil types and mesoclimates found in these appellations add to the wine’s myriad of complex flavors.
The 2013 vintage surpassed even the highly touted 2012 vintage in grape quality. A winter with very low rainfall was followed by a dry, warm spring and summer. These factors resulted in balanced vine canopies, good fruit set and small, concentrated grapes. Perfect weather throughout harvest fostered intense, beautifully balanced and expressive wines.
The hand-harvested grapes were quickly brough to our winery and the clusters were destemmed, retaining 60 percent as whole berries to maximize fruitiness in the wine. For gentle extraction of varietal character and color, the must is cold soakedfor two days before the two-week primary fermentation. Malolactic fermentation was conducted in barrels during aging to round the acidity. A selection of new barrels gave subtle oak spice complexity to this generously fruity Merlot.