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Posts from the ‘Merlot’ Category

2006 Quilceda Creek Merlot – Bottle Notes

Quilceda Creek Vintners was founded in 1978 by Alex and Jeanette Golitzin. Alex Golitzin is a nephew of André Tchelistcheff, the legendary winemaker who put Beaulieu Vineyard at the forefront of Napa Valley Cabernet in the 1960s and 70s. He credits summer trips to visit his uncle in St. Helena, California with developing his early interest in wine. Alex’s son, Paul Golitzin is now chief winemaker at the winery.

Quilceda Creek Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon has earned some of the highest scores of any wine produced in the United States. The 2002, ’03, ’05 and ’07 vintages all scored 100-point ratings from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate. Quilceda Creek also produces several single vineyard Cabernets and a Columbia Valley Red Wine.

Magenta in color. 15.2% ABV. Blockbuster nose of blue fruits, violets, molten licorice and tobacco. Rich, concentrated and super silky on the palate. Flavors of blueberry, cassis liqueur, cinnamon and dark chocolate. The finish is exceptionally long with persistent tannins. Absolutely stunning Merlot and unfortunately the last vintage of this variety made by Quilceda Creek. This would certainly rival the best from Washington and California. Drink over the next 3-5 years.

My rating: 96 points.

Quilceda Creek is best obtained via the mailing list and you may be able to find some at retail in late March or early April.

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1997 Pahlmeyer Merlot – Bottle Notes

Pahlmeyer was founded in the mid-1980s when Jayson Pahlmeyer, a Bay Area lawyer, decided he preferred thinking about wine over reading legal briefs. Pahlmeyer produced its debut vintage in 1986. Bibiana González Rave is the current winemaker. Wines produced at Pahlmeyer include the flagship Proprietary Red, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Crimson in color. 14.5% ABV. Fantastic nose of red fruits, chocolate and leather. Rich, plush and hedonistic. Full bodied with ample acidity. Cherries, cassis, spiced plums and tobacco on the palate. The finish is exceedingly long. For my money, one of the very best domestic Merlot’s ever produced. In a class with the ’92 Leonetti Merlot and the ’92 Beringer Howell Mountain Merlot Bancroft Ranch. Stunning wine and a treat at twenty years of age on Father’s Day. Drink soon.

My rating: 96 points.

It is worth noting that the wines Helen Turley made at Pahlmeyer from 1995-1997 are true benchmarks for California. I have a few bottles each of the ’96 and ’97 Proprietary Red that I look forward to opening in the next year or so.

Pahlmeyer wines are readily available at retail and via the winery. Current vintages of Pahlmeyer Merlot should set you back about $80. I’ve already secured a few bottles.

While we are at this, what is the best domestic Merlot you have ever had? I would love to see your comments below.

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2010 Switchback Ridge Merlot – Bottle Notes

Switchback Ridge wines are sourced from the Peterson Family Vineyard in Calistoga. The property has been in the Peterson Family since 1914 and was replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Sirah in 1990. Bob Foley has been the winemaker since the inaugural vintage in 1999.

Purple in color. 14.2% ABV. Amazing nose of blue fruits, crushed stones and flowers. Big, dense and complex with a sweet fruit profile. Currants, cassis liqueur and cocoa powder on the palate. The finish is long and silky with fine grained tannins. At first blush this wine seems to be slightly less concentrated than previous vintages but it picks up weight with time in the glass. The nose itself is worth the price of admission. Classic Bob Foley and a benchmark for California Merlot. Drink over the next 2-4 years.

My rating: 92 points.

Switchback Ridge wines are only available via their allocation list. The 2014 Merlot was released to mailing list members last fall and is fairly priced at $70 per bottle.

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2007 Force Majeure Collaboration Series IV – Bottle Notes

Force Majeure was founded in 2004 by Paul McBride and made its name pairing some of Washington’s highly acclaimed winemakers with fruit from one of Washington’s highly acclaimed vineyards, Ciel du Cheval.  The winery recently transitioned from Collaboration wines to Estate wines. Todd Alexander, formerly of Bryant Family Vineyards, is the winemaker for the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. There is also a second label that was introduced last year named Parabellum.

Interesting to note that this is one of my last Grand Reve bottles which was the original name of the winery prior to Force Majeure.

Violet in color. 13.6% ABV. 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot. Soaring nose of red fruits, anise and graphite. Rich and polished with layers of fruit. Currants, cassis, cherries and molten licorice on the palate. The finish is incredibly long and plush. This wine has lost some of the baby fat of years past and is taking on some cool tertiary characteristics. In a great place now. One of the best Merlot based wines in Washington. Drink over the next 4-6 years.

My rating: 94 points.

Force Majeure is one of the most exciting wineries in the state. The winery is still accepting names for the mailing list .

I’m going to miss the CS wines and in particular the Merlot dominant CS IV but am excited about the direction Paul McBride has in mind for Force Majeure.

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2006 Leonetti Merlot – Bottle Notes

Leonetti Cellar was founded in 1977 by Gary and Nancy Figgins. Leonetti, along with Quilceda Creek and Woodward Canyon put premium Washington Cabernet Sauvignon on the radar of wine consumers across the United States. Leonetti also produces one of the very best domestic Merlots. Chris Figgins is now in charge of the winemaking.

76% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Carmenere and 4% Petit Verdot. Sourced from Seven Hills, Loess, Mill Creek Upland, Pepper Bridge, Bacchus-Dionysus and Wallula Vineyards.

Bright violet in color. 14.3% ABV. Heady nose of red fruits, licorice and cinnamon. Medium body with medium to strong acidity. Plush and decadent. Cherries, cloves, black currants and tobacco on the palate. The finish is exceptionally long with suave, silky tannins. Drink over the next 2-4 years. Without question the pinnacle of Washington Merlot.

My rating: 92 points.

Leonetti has a full mailing list but the wine is readily available at retail in late-March. The winery has done an exceptional job at holding the line on prices and you may be able to the new 2014 vintage of Leonetti Merlot for right around $80 at your favorite wine store.

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2010 Efeste Merlot Upright Klipsun Vineyard – Bottle Notes

Efeste, pronounced like the letters “F-S-T” strung together, was named after the last names of founders Helen & Dan Ferrelli, Patrick Smith, and Kevin & Angela Taylor. Efeste is located in the Warehouse District of Woodinville, Washington. Peter Devison took over full-time winemaking duties when Brennon Leighton left to work with Charles Smith in 2012.

100% Merlot sourced from Klipsun Vineyard. The name Upright is a play on the movie Sideways.

Crimson in color. 14.27% ABV. Plums, licorice and cedar on the nose. Full bodied and tightly wound. Raspberries, currants and leather on the palate. There are coarse tannins on a very long finish. This is a wine to drink over the next year or so while fruit is still prominent.

My rating: 90 points.

The 2012 Upright is available at retail and the winery for $39.

Efeste has one of the best white wine programs in the state of Washington and the red wines are also exceptional. The wines are readily available at retail, via the wine club and at the winery.

I’ve blogged about Efeste previously in The Great Whites of Washington.

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2012 Grgich Hills Estate Merlot – Bottle Notes

Grgich Hills Estate, in Rutherford, in the Napa Valley, was founded in 1977 by Mike Grgich. Grgich earned fame in 1976 when the Chardonnay he produced as winemaker at Chateau Montelena won first prize among white wines at the now famous Paris Wine Tasting. The estate has 366 acres of vineyards in American Canyon, Carneros, Yountville, Rutherford and Calistoga and is still best known for its Chardonnays, which consistently earn accolades from wine critics. Grgich also makes Fume Blanc, Zinfandel, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and dessert wines.

Purple in color. 14.9% ABV. Red fruits, espresso and anise on the nose. Big and bold on the palate with substantial tannins. Medium body with healthy acidity. Flavors of strawberry, currants and dark chocolate. The wine finishes strong and will clearly benefit from 3-5 years in the cellar. Lots to like here. Pretty Merlot from an exceptional vintage.

My rating: 91 points.

$43 at the winery and retail.

Grgich Hills is one of Napa’s iconic wineries. Consider stopping by when you next visit Napa Valley.

This review was based on sample provided by the winery.

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2006 Cayuse Flying Pig – Bottle Notes

The 2006 Cayuse Flying Pig was the wining bottle in the September Installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

Cayuse was founded in 1997 by Christophe Baron, a native of France who grew up in family of winemakers in Champagne. Baron studied viticulture in Burgundy and Champagne, and had ambitions to make Pinot Noir in Oregon. However, on a visit to Walla Walla he found property that he believed would be perfect for growing grapes and decided to purchase the land.

The fruit for Flying Pig is sourced from En Cerise Vineyard and the wine is Christophe’s take on Cheval Blanc.

I did not decant the wine.

Blood red in color. 14.5% ABV. 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Merlot. Fantastic nose of graphite, grilled peppers and currants. Medium body with light to medium acidity. Plums, cherries, iron and cinnamon on the palate. Great finish on an absolutely stunning wine. I’m not sure this wine could get any better than it is right now. Drink over the next several years.

My rating: 96 points.

The waiting list for the Cayuse mailing list is huge and you need to be well-connected to get a bottle via retail. Either way, current vintages are worth the hunt!

For more on Cayuse please see The Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings and Winery Mailing Lists: The Fab 5.

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2005 Leonetti Merlot – Bottle Notes

Leonetti Cellar was founded in 1977 by Gary and Nancy Figgins. Leonetti, along with Quilceda Creek and Woodward Canyon put premium Washington Cabernet Sauvignon on the radar of wine consumers across the United States. Leonetti also produces one of the very best domestic Merlots. Chris Figgins is now in charge of the winemaking.

Leonetti is near and dear to me as a wine consumer, and I’ve been on their mailing list for 20 years. Vintages like the ’92 Merlot and ’98 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon are included among my most memorable wines.

The ’05 Merlot is sourced from Mill Creek Upland, Loess, Pepper Bridge, Bacchus-Dioysus, Wallula and Leonetti Estate Vineyards. 85% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Petit Verdot.

Purple in color. 14.3% ABV. Great aromatics of black fruits, anise and baking spices. Medium body with good acidity. The hallmark silky texture of all the Leonetti wines is ever present. Black cherry, currants, cassis and cocoa powder on the palate. The finish is tremendous. I’m inclined to drink my last few bottles over the next several years.

My rating: 92 points.

Leonetti has a full mailing list but the wine is readily available at retail in late-March. The winery has done an exceptional job at holding the line on prices and you should be able to find bottles right around $85.

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2005 Quilceda Creek Merlot – Bottle Notes

Quilceda Creek Vintners was founded in 1978 by Alex and Jeanette Golitzin. Alex Golitzin is a nephew of André Tchelistcheff, the legendary winemaker who put Beaulieu Vineyard at the forefront of Napa Valley Cabernet in the 1960s and 70s. He credits summer trips to visit his uncle in St. Helena, California with developing his early interest in wine. Alex’s son, Paul Golitzin is now chief winemaker at the winery.

Quilceda Creek Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon has earned some of the highest scores of any wine produced in the United States. The 2002, ’03, ’05 and ’07 vintages all scored 100-point ratings from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate. The 2003 vintage of Quilceda Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon was named the No. 2 Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator. Quilceda Creek produces several single vineyard Cabernets, and they also bottled a Merlot through the ’06 vintage.

Purple in color. 14.9% ABV. Great nose of blue fruits, violets and molten licorice. Plush and silky on the palate. Flavors of blueberries, graphite and creme de cassis. Beautiful finish. What a delicious Merlot. Only a slight step down from the flagship Cabernet Sauvignon. I do wish Quilceda Creek still bottled a Merlot. Drink over the next 2-4 years.

My rating: 95 points.

The last Quilceda Creek Merlot was made in 2006.

I’ve blogged about Quilceda Creek previously in The Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

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