Merlot • Heller Estate
California: Carmel Valley
What we say
Mission Update: Only a few bottle remain! Make sure you do not miss this spectacular wine.
[Welcome to Accolades Week at The Wine Spies! All this week, we’ll be featuring wines that have won awards or high praise from judges and wine writers.]
Gold Medal – 2007 Monterey County Fair
Wine of the Quarter – Quarterly Review of Wines
::Agent Zin Reporting::
Subject 2003 Heller Estate Merlot
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep red
Smell – Berries, earthy, mellow oak, cedar, mocha and subtle vanilla
Taste – An initial splash of berry in the mouth, with nice mid pallet tannins gives way to sweet oak, fruit juice and casis, with a great and sustained finish of dark roasted coffee.
Conclusion – This is a complex and exciting wine that, as the label portends, dances on your tongue. Far from boring, this is an intriguing merlot with a great deal of flavor and life. It is, quite frankly, one of the best examples of this varietal that this spy has tried in some time. The fact that the wine is organic and without sulfites and comes from Carmel Valley only adds to the intrigue.
All of our spies agree, this is an exceptional Merlot. All of us here love this wine and we give it our full recommendation.
Wine Spies Deep Background Check
All wines from this winery are estate bottled and organically produced. Current production is approximately 25,000 cases annually.
The vineyards are planted on sandy, clay loamy soils and despite the altitude the area is very warm and free from frost. The wide variation in daily temperatures (which can vary 40 degrees in twenty four hours) helps to produce these exceptional age-worthy and full-bodied wines.
The original vineyards were planted in 1968, and the first wines were produced in 1976. The late William Durney of Los Angeles and his wife Dorothy, a screenwriter, did the first plantings, and in 1982 the Carmel Valley Appellation denomination was approved by the authorities in 1983. A sculpture garden has been added to the property, as well as another adjacent to the tasting room in Carmel Valley Village. The sculptures, which are created by Toby Heller, internationally known sculptor of large works, are the inspiration for the labels. For example, the label, “Dances on Your Palate” is based on a fifteen-foot high, bronze sculpture overlooking the vineyards, and the motto “Magical Wines That Dance on Your Palate ” is featured on the label.
Wine Spies Technical Analysis:
Varietal Composition: 100% Merlot
Harvest Date: October 20, 2003
Acid: 0.69 g/100ml
Brix at Harvest: 24
Free & Total SO2: 27/69 ppm
Bottling Date: April 2006
Residual Sugar: 2 mg/100ml (0.002%)
Cases Bottled: 1,100
What the winery says
Aroma: Nicely layered aromas of cedar, crushed blackberries and subtle vanilla. Also, look for hints of lavender and marjoram as wine opens.
Palate: Bright and lively mouth feel with balanced tannin and lingering finish. Lush berry notes throughout combine with a touch of sweet oak. Look for notes of dark roasted coffee and mocha in mid-palate and finish.
Comments: 2003 was another good year in the vineyard with average to slightly above average Winter rain, minimal frost events, and a long, dry Summer that extended well into Fall. With fall rains holding off until mid-November, we were able to achieve full ripeness on all varieties.
About our Vineyard Overlooking the Cachagua region of Carmel Valley, (“Cachagua” is believed to be an Indian Derivative of the French “cacher” and the Spanish “agua” - “hidden waters”), and framed by the dramatic surrounding hills, lie the beautiful mountain vineyards of the Heller Estate. The 120 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir are planted at an altitude of 1200 - 1500 feet, producing rich, luscious grapes, which result in outstanding premium wines.
The vineyards are essentially dry-farmed, the roots of the vines descending deep in the loamy, sandy soil in search of the underground “Cachagua” springs. These stressed vines produce outstanding luscious fruit, which are then skillfully crafted into the extraordinary Cabernets that have been described by wine reviewers as “super-rich, with lots of tannin and explosively long finishes”. The Chardonnays are reviewed as “dramatic, blockbuster wines which are rich, exceptionally age worthy, and can easily last 5-7 years - an uncommonly long time for a California Chardonnay”