Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Merryvale Vineyards

Merryvale Vineyards is located on Highway 29 in southern St. Helena, near Tra Vigne restaurant.  It was the first winery built in Napa Valley after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 and is the largest winery within the city limits.  It was purchased by the Schlatter family in 1983 and continues to be family owned. 

Entry to tasting room

They have two vineyards.  The Merryvale's Estate Vineyard Solstice is on the ridges above St. Helena and focuses on Bordeaux varietal grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  Their Stanly Ranch Estate Vineyard is located in Carneros where Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay are planted.  Some grapes are also sourced from a few ultra-premium Napa Valley vineyards.

Tasting room

Current tasting options include a Summer Whites Tasting for $15, a Signature Tasting at $15 and the Prestige Tasting for $35.  By prior appointment one may arrange for Artisanal Cheese & Wine Pairing, Historic Tour & Barrel Tasting, Library Portfolio Tasting, or Barrel Tasting Events & Release Parties. Private tours, tastings, and seminars are available for groups by appointment by calling 707-963-7777.  Much thanks to our host, Robert, who was very helpful and pleasant.

Fountain near entryway

We opted for the Prestige Tasting that began with the Merryvale 2011 Silhouette  Chardonnay at $65.  It had a moderate aroma of white peach and minerality.  On the palate it was fairly full bodied, crisp, and well balanced with lemon, white peach and some minerality followed by a good, clean moderate length finish.  This is a classy Chardonnay that is great to drink now but will age wonderfully.  It is priced higher than many Napa Valley Chardonnays, but is very good indeed.  In my tasting notes I rated it a 90.

The second pour was the Merryvale 2011 Stanley Ranch Pinot Noir at $65. This is a single vineyard Pinot Noir from their Carneros vineyard and only a few hundred cases were produced.  It was a lovely purple and rose color with a very good nose of black cherry and spices.  On the palate this was a full bodied Pinot, especially for Carneros, that also had finesse and layered complexity.  I got red cherry, raspberry, strawberry and baking spices with good acid, all very well balanced, followed by a long finish that included the addition of some mushroom notes.  Very nice.  In my tasting notes I gave it a 92.  Highly recommended.

The Merryvale 2009 Napa Valley Merlot at $48 was next.  I got red cherry and chocolate on the nose followed by cherry, chocolate, spice and toast, with very good structure and tannins and a full body.  If you think Merlots cannot be deep, rich and interesting, you should try this one.  I rated it 89 in my tasting notes.

Outside tasting room

The fourth pour was the Merryvale 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at $65.  This was one of the few vintages that I found the winemaker's notes on so I can tell you it is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot and comes from the Merryvale St. Helena Estate, Stagecoach Vineyard and Kenefick Vineyard. 70% of it saw 22 months in new French oak.  Before you swirl and check the aroma with this Cab, please hold it up to the light and over some white paper or background.  It is a beautiful deep, dark purple in color and a delight to look at.  On the nose I got a lot of black cherry and toast with hints of coffee and vanilla.  On the palate it was full bodied, round, well balanced with rather forward sumptuous fruit and very good structure.  It was mostly black cherry, black currants and blackberry along with some cedar and toast.  This is a lush wine with a long finish.  I gave it a 91 in my tasting notes.

Our final pour was the Merryvale 2009 Profile Napa Valley Proprietary Red Blend that sells at $165.  This is a Bordeaux style blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc.  88% of the grapes came from the Merryvale St. Helena Estate vineyard, 9% from Larkmead Vineyard and 3% from Stagecoach Vineyard.  It was aged for 21 months in new French oak with minimal racking.  It was an intense, very deep, dark, opaque purple in color.  On the nose it was dark black cherry and black currant with hints of cinnamon and cloves.  On the palate it was very full bodied and lush with black cherry, black currant, cinnamon, vanilla, etc. plus layers of complexity and wonderfully integrated tannins.  The balance was perfect and it had a great sensuous mouthfeel.  Even the smallest sip will tell you immediately that you are dealing with a very high class Cabernet.  As wonderful as this wine is right now, it will develop into something even more amazing with time; it has everything it needs to cellar very well. I rated it an easy 94 points and very highly recommended it to anybody who appreciates a great Cabernet Sauvignon.

Barrel room

Although we were especially fond of Merryvale's Cabernets we were also quite impressed with their Pinot Noirs and they make a very good Chardonnay and quite decent Merlot.  They also produce a second label that is very affordable, called Starmont.  Although there is no tasting room for Starmont, you might want to check this line out if you are looking for more affordable wines.  I have not tasted them, so cannot comment on them.  As we were leaving we did try a quick sample of the Merryvale 2011 Carneros Pinot Noir which sells for about $30.  I did not take tasting notes, but it was a very nice Pinot for the price and we purchased several bottles to try later.  Merryvale is one of the major Napa Valley Wineries. They produce excellent wines You will certainly want to visit them when visiting Napa Valley.

Building behind tasting room building

Merryvale Vineyards
1000 Main Street    
St. Helena, CA 94574    
(707) 963-2225
Date of visit: August 28, 2013
The Winery Tasting Room is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. with the last wine tasting flights of the day offered at 6:00 p.m. They are closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. There are rare occasions, mostly during the winter months, when they are required to close their tasting room early for special events. Please see their webpage for more up to date information.

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