In 2003, a warm late winter gave way to cool, wet weather in April, setting back vine development. Seasonally temperate weather prevailed during the summer months, however, with cool evenings maintaining an even pace of ripening. The latter part of September brought several heat spikes, which accelerated ripening, but classic autumn weather arrived in October, extending the harvest by several weeks and enabling us to pick our deeply colored Merlot grapes with wonderfully concentrated flavors and ideal levels of acidity.
The grapes for our 2003 Merlot came primarily from mid-Napa Valley, where warm summer temperatures produce fruit with ripe blackberry and plum flavors and healthy tannins. The balance were from the cool-climate Carneros district in the southern part of the valley, which provides bright, black cherry fruit with crisp acidity. The grapes for our 2003 Merlot, which was blended with 13.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Malbec and 2.5% Syrah, were harvested between September 24th and October 24th, 2003.
Winemaker Julianne Laks uses several cutting-edge techniques to maximize the quality of our superb Merlot fruit. First, she cold-soaks the must (unfermented juice and skins) prior to fermentation to extract color and flavor. Then, she employs a technique called rack-and-return, in which fermenting juice from one tank is drained and transferred to a second tank, leaving the "cap" of skins to fall to the bottom. The juice is then pumped back into the original tank, re-macerating the skins and maximizing color and flavor extraction while softening tannins. The separately fermented vineyard lots are blended and transferred to French oak barrels for aging. Our 2003 Merlot spent 18 months in French oak, 50% new, prior to bottling in April 2005.
Our 2003 Merlot leads with a complex, engaging aroma of
ripe black cherry, blackberry and cassis fruit, with complementary tea-leaf,
herbal spice and dark chocolate tones. The palate exhibits impressive
weight and texture, with well-integrated tannins supporting mouthfilling,
chocolate-tinged, black fruit flavors that turn slightly spicy in the
long, rich finish. Delicious to drink now, this broadly flavored Merlot
will benefit from another 2-3 years' cellaring.
Total Acidity: 0.69g/100ml