Whole-berry fermentation and cold soaking enhanced the rich fruit expression, while barrel aging added toasty oak nuances. 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 and Hungarian oak barrels softened the tannins as it added toasty oak spice.
Appellation: Calistoga, Stags Leap District, Yountville, Oak Knoll
Barrel Aging: 21 months, 88% French Oak, 12% Hungarian Oak (24% New Barrels)
Varietal Composition: 97% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Malbec
Production: 9,510 cases
“The medium to deep garnet-purple colored 2016 Merlot opens with bags of plums, baked cherries and mulberries-inspired scents with touches of incense, Chinese five spice and dusty soil. Full-bodied with a chewy frame and compelling freshness, it finishes on an earthy note.” -Lisa Perrotti-Brown, October 29, 2018
This Napa Valley Merlot opens with a bouquet of ripe red and black berry fruit aromas alongside hints of perfumed floral, savory spice. This Merlot is very alluring with layers of fresh black cherry, raspberry, cranberry and cassis supported by sweet baking spice notes of cinnamon, clove, graham cracker and sweet vanilla – all influences from the oak aging integrating perfectly with the varietal and terroir expression. The wine’s round, rich and plush palate invites you in to discover the vibrant berry fruit flavors that evolve into nuanced flavors of mocha, malted chocolate, cola and espresso bean. There’s also a delicate earthy character with soft wild sage, dried crushed herbs, and anise seed coming through on the back end. Mouthwatering acidity gives length to the flavors and a nice lift that carries through on the finish, while supple tannins frame this generous Merlot and give it cellar worthiness and a beautiful structure.
We sourced most of the fruit from estate vineyards in Calistoga (65%) followed by grower produced vineyards in the Stags Leap and Yountville appellations (25%) as well as a small percentage from the Oak Knoll bench (10%). The Merlot grown in the warmer Calistoga region within the northern part of the Napa Valley gives the wine rich, riper flavors and a softer texture, while grapes from the slightly cooler Stags Leap, Yountville and Oak Knoll districts contributes brighter red fruit flavors and acidity, with hints of black pepper and spice.
The extended drought was beginning to cause real concern as the 2016 growing season kicked off, but some welcomed winter rain hinted at the relief to come. After a relatively dry January we enjoyed significant rainfall in February, along with mild temperatures. Bud break was early, but was slowed by heavy April showers. While still early by historical standards, picking began about a week later than 2015, right around Labor Day, and continued at a leisurely pace, allowing the grapes to reach full flavor maturity. A traditionally sized harvest followed the lighter showing of 2015, and the extended mild season helped to balance the acids and add complexity to the layers of flavors. Considered a perfect harvest and a winemaker’s dream vintage, conditions were perfect for producing a Merlot with beautiful fruit as well as tremendous concentration of flavors, highly saturated color, and layers of complexity.
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 5-6 days before the two-week primary fermentation. Malolactic fermentation was conducted in barrels, with frequent stirring to develop rich texture. After completion of this second fermentation, we racked the wine off the lees and then continued barrel aging for 21 months.