This special bottling is the focused expression of one Merlot vineyard—the Las Amigas Vineyard in the Los Carneros region of Napa Valley. The influence of cool breezes from the San Francisco bay gave this Merlot its bright, yet rich, flavors. Cold soaking the destemmed grapes accentuated the wine’s fruitiness, while barrel aging married oak spices with Merlot’s velvety flavors. Braised lamb with caramelized onions, roast turkey or duck with cherry sauce, or grilled steak smothered in mushrooms are great pairings.
Appellation: Los Carneros
For centuries, wine lovers have been intrigued by the ability of some wines to become more complex and softer with time. Hints of leather, cedar forest and cigar box grace the rich black cherry and plum aromas. Toffee and oak spice nuances from aging in oak barrels have become even more beautifully integrated. The opulent-textured, dark-fruit flavors reveal hints of fig and dark chocolate. Yet, this wine is still alive with vibrant, balanced acidity—reflecting its origin of Las Amigas Vineyard located in the southern, coolest tip of Napa Valley.
Las Amigas Vineyard is located in the Los Carneros American Viticultural Area (AVA) in the southern reaches of Napa Valley, closest to the San Francisco Bay. Here, the unique, well-drained soils and cool marine climate ripen Merlot grapes slowly, allowing for full flavor maturity and supple tannins. The vines are trained with vertical shoot and cluster-positioning for maximizing sun exposure in the rolling, windswept Carneros hills.
We hand-harvested the Merlot clusters into half-ton bins to minimize crushing and then quickly transported the fruit to our winery. We then destemmed the clusters, maintaining approximately 60 percent whole berries to maximize fruitiness during fermentation. For gentle extraction of varietal character, we cold soaked the partially crushed berries 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.
Napa Valley’s 2010 vintage will be remembered as having the latest onset to harvest in several decades. The above-average rainfall and cool temperatures 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 the grapes’ flavors and sugar levels. Tom reports that quality was “as good as it gets.”