For us at Cakebread Cellars in Napa Valley, the 1999 growing season was comparatively a cool one. With such cool temperatures come later harvest times, while the grapes retain much of their natural acidities. This pattern held true despite a spate of very hot weather at the end of September. Despite elevated grape sugar levels, we waited until the sugars actually came back down and the overall flavors of the grapes were in balance.
Typically at Cakebread Cellars, we describe red wines as either having a red fruit character or a black one; that is, either hints of raspberries, red cherries and plums or of dark chocolates, black cherries and plums. Our red winemaking aim at Cakebread Cellars is to achieve a nice balance between the two. Generally, the Merlot fruit we grow and purchase from the Oak Knoll-Rutherford area of Napa Valley, as well as that of the Carneros Napa Valley appellation lend themselves to our achieving just that kind of balance between red and black characters of fruit, respectively.
This 1999 Napa Valley wine marks our ninth vintage of making Merlot. In making our Merlot, we employed several traditional as well as innovative winemaking techniques. For example, before fermentation got underway, we allowed the merlot juice and skins to "soak" at cool temperatures. This practice helps intensify both the color and flavors of the resulting wine. In addition to "cold-soaking" the Merlot must, we also periodically drained the fermenting must from the stainless steel fermenters and then returned it. This "rack and return" process helps to smooth out the tannins.
Cakebread Cellars' 1999 Napa Valley Merlot displays a very black to purple color; has rich aromas, redolent with fruit; and flavors of blackberries, with subtle hints of black pepper. There are also aromas that hint of black tea leaves and a dried herb, possibly nutmeg. In the background, there is a delicate scent of cedar and vanilla. On the palate, there are fresh plum, black pepper as well as a drop of cassis and cherry-like flavors, which end with just a touch of French oak. As with all our wines, this Merlot is ready for dinner tonight, but it will continue to develop complexity over the next 3-5 years.
Total Acidity: 0.64g/100ml
Residual Sugar: 0.09g/100ml