In 2004, an unusually warm late winter, coupled with consistently mild summer weather and several late-season heat spells, resulted in one of the earliest Northern California harvests on record. Although the harvest was fast and furious, the early start to the season and lower-than-normal crop loads produced grape clusters with small berries and ripe flavors, yielding wines of impressive depth, concentration and structure. The grapes for our 2004 Merlot, which was blended with 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Syrah and 1% Cabernet Franc, were harvested between September 4 and October 20, 2004.
Roughly 70% of the grapes for our 2004 Merlot came from the Oakville, Rutherford, Calistoga and Howell Mountain districts of Napa Valley, with the balance from the cooler Carneros district at the southern tip of the valley. The up-valley fruit contributes ripe blackberry and plum aromas and flavors while the Carneros fruit adds a bright, black cherry character and crisp acidity.
After de-stemming and crushing, we cold-soaked the must (unfermented juice and skins) prior to fermentation to enhance color and flavor extraction. Once fermentation began, we used 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. Once fermentation completed, the separate vineyard lots were pressed off the skins and transferred to French oak barrels, 43% new, where they aged six months before blending. The finished wine spent an additional 12 months in barrel prior to bottling in March 2006.
Our 2004 Merlot offers fragrant, dark fruit aromas of ripe plum and blackberry, with subtle scents of tobacco, tar, tea-leaf, violets and toasty oak adding complexity. The palate is full and dense with rich, round flavors of ripe blackberry and plum, briary spice tones, smooth tannins, and a long, weighty finish. Delicious to drink now, this deeply flavored Napa Valley Merlot will handsomely repay you with two to three years of additional cellaring.