2006 Pinot Noir, Carneros
Pinot Noir • Merryvale Estate, Stanly Ranch
California: Carneros - Los Carneros (Napa)
What we say
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Mission Codename: From Merryvale, with love
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Operative favorite, Merryvale, this time to recover a cache of their fabled Carneros Pinot Noir
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Merryvale Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2006 Carneros Pinot Noir
Winemakers: Sean Foster and Larry Cherubino
Backgrounder: Some of our favorite California Pinot Noir comes from the Carneros viticultural area, a winegrowing region which straddles the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. The cool Carneros region provides ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Pinot thrives here. Merryvale is a Wine Spies favorite and we are proud to bring you today’s very special limited-production wine. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report to learn more about this fantastic Pinot Noir.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Sparkling clear ruby red, almost pomegranate in color, with beautiful clarity and sparkling burgundy-colored edges with tightly-packed, stubby legs that take forever to appear
Smell – Classic Carneros, with aromatic black cherry, gunpowder, and black currant with soft forest floor, strawberry, natural vanilla bean and softest cocoa
Feel – Ultra-light, cool and speedy-round at very first, then quickly grippy and slightly tight, crisp with medium supple tannins
Taste – Delicious and brightly tart, then sweet with flinty black cherry, sweet black currant, smoky cranberry and Oolong tea with a hint of black pepper
Finish – Ultra-long, starts sweet, then goes tart and back to sweet with black tea flavors that linger as the fruit flavors tail off slowly
Conclusion – A superb example of Pinot Noir! There is a reason that the Carneros region is known for Pinot and this wine demonstrates why. Merryvale has extracted the best that this region has to offer. If you have never had the pleasure to taste a true Carneros Pinot Noir, I wholeheartedly recommend this fine selection. The wine has a deeply aromatic nose and brightly balanced flavors that make the wine a super stand-alone, but also make it very food-friendly. Oh, and the intriguing mouthfeel makes it a pleasure to imbibe, as well.
What follows is my original mission report, in which I first infiltrated Merryvale
Merryvale hosts their own ‘Wine Component Tasting’ seminar every Saturday & Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. The fourth weekend of every month is Merryvale’s ‘Food & Wine Pairing’ seminar.
These events provided me with the perfect opportunity for some close surveillance of this respected winery. I wasted no time and signed up for both, which actually proved to be not only deeply informative from a Wine Spies intel-gathering perspective, but also from a wine drinker’s perspective. The two events were also great fun and the Merryvale winery is amazing!
The Wine Spies strive to have a low impact on the environment, but Merryvale takes this sort of responsibility to an extreme. Wherever possible, The Wine Spies use earth-friendly materials such as pulp wine shippers and recycled packing materials. We drive hybrid spy cars, keep office lights dimmed or turned off during the day and we recycle relentlessly. Merryvale does all of these things – and way more.
On arrival at the Merryvale Vineyards facility, the first thing that I noticed were the seemingly acres of solar panels covering the rooftop of their 60,000 foot building.
Once inside for the morning component tasting, I learned that Merryvale completed the installation of its 277kW solar electric system in 1996, before being green was chic.
The solar array generates enough clean electricity each day to power nearly 80 homes and will spare the air nearly 473 tons of harmful greenhouse gases annually. Over the next 30 years, the air pollution saved will be equivalent to driving over 32 million miles.
The winery’s solar system will provide 90-100% of the winery’s electricity needs on an annual basis for the company’s 60,000 square foot building.
Merryvale’s foremost reason for installing the array is to utilize green energy. This is an effort that we applaud and one that we are happy to be seeing at more and more wineries these days.
The component tasting and the pairing seminar were both exceptional and I recommend these for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of wine. While the winery and the classes were great, far more impressive are Merryvale’s incredible wines.
The Merryvale Vineyards winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
Merryvale Vineyards, Member, Napa Valley Vintners
Awards and Accolades:
90 Points – Juicy and clean with lively acidity, fresh red cherry and notes of earth; silky and long, with spice, fresh fruit and fine texture. – Anthony Dias Blue
90 Points – Patterson’s Tasting Panel Magazine – The core Merryvale wines are expertly-crafted Napa Valley varietals, made with obvious care and attention in both the vineyard and the winery.
About This Wine:
Our Pinot Noir is dark ruby in color, and shows black cherry, strawberry, vanilla, chocolate and black tea on the nose. Long supple tannins are balanced with crisp acidity on the palate for a long finish. The wine will improve for several years.
The grapes for this wine come from the historic Stanly Ranch in the Napa area of Carneros. These vineyard sources have been recently planted to Pinot Noir with newly available clones that are transforming the quality and character of Carneros Pinot Noir into richer and darker wines.
The grapes were triple sorted (in the vineyard, before de-stemming, and again before crushing). The wine is aged for 8 months in French Oak and bottled unfiltered.
The 2006 vintage has been described as a “growers” year by some vintners. After a late bud break due to an unseasonably cool spring, the Napa Valley experienced a record setting heat wave in July which allowed the grapes to catch up in ripening. An ideal mild weather pattern came in August and an “Indian Summer” followed into October allowing for slow and even ripening resulting in acids and sugars in perfect harmony.
The wine pairs well with cedar plank salmon, roast duck and any dish featuring wild mushrooms.
About The Winery:
The first winery built in the Napa Valley following the repeal of Prohibition, Merryvale is located in the heart of America’s premier wine region. Graced with a European fountain and formal grounds, the historic winery is ideally located just 1/4 mile south of downtown St. Helena, Napa Valley — adjacent to renowned Tra Vigne restaurant and within easy walking distance of many other restaurants and shops.
In this celebrated home, the spirit of great winemaking thrives in the care of owner Jack W. Schlatter and his son, René Schlatter, Senior Winemakers Sean Foster and Larry Cherubino.
By maintaining the founding vision — To capture the essence of the region’s noble vineyards in rich, complex, supple wines rivaling the best in the world — Merryvale has earned international acclaim for wines of outstanding quality.
How we make wine:
Meticulous, Painstaking, Passionate Winemaking
The essence of the Napa Valley — a verdant parquet of diverse soils and microclimates that is home to some of the world’s greatest vineyards. Merryvale seeks to capture this essence with thoughtful attention to each of the thousand steps along the way to rich, complex, elegant wines.
The process begins with the careful selection of vineyards — by site, by block, even by row — to find the areas best suited to growing of the highest quality winegrapes for the specific varietal. Each aspect of the land — including microclimate, soil type, drainage, degree of slope and sun exposure – is evaluated for its contribution.
Merryvale’s grape purchase agreements include control over vineyard practices. The winemaking team carefully works hand in hand with each grower to manage all aspects of the vineyard — from pruning, irrigation, leaf thinning, hedging, shoot positioning, crop thinning, to the time of harvest.
Balanced crop levels ensure Merryvale’s grapes a greater concentration of flavors at lower sugar levels.
In red grapes, this will also facilitate the more rapid maturation of tannins, translating into rich, round wines with intense aromas and flavors, and more supple tannins.
Harvest time is determined by flavor and tannin maturity, not by sugar level alone. Careful attention is paid to all the grape and vine characteristics that indicate full fruit maturity has been reached. Skin color, absence of herbaceous flavors, color of the seeds, texture of the pulp and condition of the leaves are all important clues in determining stage of development.
Merryvale grapes are hand picked and sorted first in the field and sorted again here at the winery to remove leaves, substandard fruit and over- and under-ripe clusters. To protect the fruit from being damaged or bruised by excess weight during harvest, Merryvale grapes are placed in small half-ton boxes.
BLEND: 100% Pinot Noir
VINEYARDS: Merryale Estate, Stanly Ranch
APPELLATION: Carneros, Napa Valley
WINEMAKING: Triple Sorting, 13 days on the skins,100% French Oak barrels, Bottled unfiltered
BARREL AGING: 8 months in French Oak (56% new)
ALCOHOL: 14.5% by volume
RELEASE DATE: August, 2007
BOTTLING DATE: July, 2007
PRODUCTION: 1,900 cases
CELLARING: Three years from release to maturity, with a plateau for another five years after that.