The 2002 vintage in Napa Valley was blessedly even and consistent. Flowering occurred normally in mid-May, and mild temperatures prevailed throughout the growing season, with just a few brief heat spikes and no rain. These benign conditions allowed the grapes in our Carneros and Napa Valley Merlot vineyards to ripen slowly and evenly, ensuring rich, balanced flavors.
The grapes for our Merlot come from two classic Napa Valley regions: the cool-climate Carneros district in the southern valley, which delivers bright fruit with crisp acidity, and the mid-valley region, whose warmer temperatures produce riper, richer fruit with juicy berry and plum flavors. The grapes for the 2002 Merlot, drawn from multiple vineyard sites in both regions (42% Carneros, 58% mid-valley), were harvested between September 13th and October 15th.
Winemaker Julianne Laks employs a number of innovative techniques to maximize the superb quality of our Merlot fruit. First, she cold-soaks the must (unfermented juice and skins) prior to fermentation to extract more color and flavor. Then, she uses a technique called rack-and-return, which involves draining a tank of fermenting juice and transferring it to another tank, leaving the "cap" of skins to fall to the bottom of the emptied tank. The juice is then pumped back into the tank, re-macerating the skins and maximizing color and flavor extraction while softening tannins. Once fermentation is complete, the Merlot ages 18 months in a mix of medium- and heavy-toast French oak barrels, 45% new, prior to bottling.
Cakebread Cellars 2002 Merlot, blended with 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, is an especially rich example of the variety. It displays ripe blackberry and black plum aromas with secondary scents of vanilla and dark coffee characteristics. On the palate, the wine is lush and full-bodied, showcasing luscious blackberry, plum and boysenberry flavors that segue into a long finish featuring an intriguing tea-like spiciness, elegant, refined tannins, and crisp underlying acidity. Delicious now, this lavishly flavored, complex Merlot will benefit from another 3-5 years' cellaring.
Total Acidity: 0.65g/100ml