A Month to Celebrate Merlot and a Closer Look at Ravenswood Single Vineyard Designate Wines

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October is Merlot Month

Did you know that October is Merlot Month?  And this is a grape worth celebrating!

For the last five years, hundreds of Merlot producers have been mounting a movement to celebrate Merlot, designating October as International Merlot Month.  More than 100 Merlot producers, wine merchants, restaurants and consumers will taste and toast online (using #MerlotMe), at events, in wine stores, restaurants and homes across the world this October.  I have received about 15 samples of FABULOUS wines so far (and they are still coming), so I am going to review the ones I have tasted to date:

October is Merlot Month

2015 Duckhorn Vineyards Three Palms Vineyard Merlot

What a way to officially kick-off Merlot month!  Duckhorn has been making its vineyard-designate Three Palms Vineyard Merlot since 1978.  It was one of California’s first vineyards to bet on the quality of this grape, and this is one of California’s first single-vineyard Merlots.

Three Palms, named for its three iconic palm trees, has a unique terroir and has been a consistent benchmark for New World Merlot.  The blend is 91% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1.5% Petit Verdot and .5% Cabernet Franc

I tasted cranberry, blueberry, fig, cassis, rose, dark cherry, cedar and chocolate.  It is a beautiful and elegant wine.

October is Merlot Month

2014 Long Meadow Ranch Napa Valley Merlot

The Hall family has an “excellence through responsible farming” creed and is dedicated to being a family-owned producer and purveyor of world-class wine and food that is economically successful and socially responsible using diversified, sustainable, and organic farming methods.

This Merlot has notes of ripe red and black fruits, herbs, oak, cocoa and a nuttiness.  It’s, layered, complex and very drinkable.

October is Merlot Month

2015 Long Shadows Pedestal Columbia Valley Merlot

I wasn’t familiar with Long Shadows Vintners.  It is a collection of seven ultra-premium Columbia Valley wines showcasing the vinicultural excellence of the growing region and honoring the internationally acclaimed winemakers who inspired them.

Founded in 2003 by Washington State wine visionary Allen Shoup with a mission to:  Recruit the finest winemakers in the world; give each vintner access to Washington State’s best grapes; and outfit a winery to accommodate a diverse group of winemakers’ exacting cellar specifications. The idea quickly sold itself, and several stars were born.

This wine was head turning. Lots of intoxicating spice, red and black fruit, oak, licorice with layers that kept revealing with each sip.

October is Merlot Month

2014 Peju Napa Valley Merlot

Several years ago, I had the chance to visit with Tony Peju and recall his story about how a love for farming and a passion for wine brought him to Napa.  In 1982, Tony and his wife Herta purchased 30 acres of land in the Napa Valley.

This Merlot was a Cabernet Lover’s Merlot with its almost meaty texture.  It had notes of raspberry, black cherry, blueberry pie and blackberry jam.  I then picked up cigar, mocha and caramel notes.  This needed some time to open and decant, but was delicious once it did.

October is Merlot Month

2015 Flora Springs Merlot

Flora Springs was founded in 1978, but the grapes were first planted on the property in the late 1800s. In 1976, Jerry and Flora began looking for a place for to retire in Napa Valley.  “It was a time in our life to change and have another interest,” said Flora.  When they came upon the property at the end of West Zinfandel Lane in St. Helena, it was Flora who saw the magic hidden behind the decades of neglect, overgrown ivy, and the shifting rock walls of the old ghost winery.  It didn’t start out to be a winery, but when their son, John, proposed the ghost winery be resurrected, the family business was born.

The Merlot that I tried was known to be Flora’s favorite wine.  This wine had notes of ripe cherry, pomegranate, raspberry, mocha, eucalyptus, tea and spice.


Unrelated, but equally as special …. I had the chance to also sample Ravenswood’s Single Vineyard Designate Wines (this is what happens when you only have one column a week …. grin)

Unfortunately, due to a very delayed flight on my way back from my Italy trip, I missed meeting with Gary Sitton, Ravenswood’s Director of Winemaking, when he came through Dallas to showcase Ravenswood’s Single Vineyard Designate Wines.  However, I was lucky enough to be sent samples of these special wines so I could taste them.

Since Joel Peterson started Ravenswood in Sonoma 42 years ago and put Zinfandels on the map, the winery has been known for its Single Vineyard designates.  These distinctive wines showcase terroirs from Sonoma and its environments, produced by Joel and Gary, who let each vineyard’s fruit express the unique terroir.  Becoming a single vineyard designate takes an ideal location; low low-yielding vines grown by meticulous and experienced growers and unique growing conditions for each site.

Tasting through these, I must say that each one expressed such a unique personality.  Here was my line-up:

2015 Ravenswood Belloni Zinfandel Russian River Valley – I tasted blueberry pie, spice, herbs and a nice earthiness.

2015 Ravenswood Dickerson Zinfandel Napa Valley – currant, red ripe cherry, raspberry, eucalyptus and dried herb.

2015 Ravenswood Big River Zinfandel Alexander Valley – this jammy Zinfandel is big and dense.  I tasted notes of leather, black pepper, blackberry and licorice.

2015 Ravenswood Barricia Zinfandel Sonoma Valley – this blend of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah was elegant and interesting.  It tasted a little more like Cabernet Sauvignon than Zinfandel.  I tasted blackberry, currant, orange zest and spice.

2015 Ravenswood Teldeschi Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley – this blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane and Alicante Bouschet is a powerful wine.   I tasted red berries and cherries, caramel, mocha, vanilla with spice and herbs.

2015 Ravenswood Old Hill Zinfandel Sonoma Valley – this is another assertive wine with black and red fruit, chocolate, spice, licorice, orange zest and vanilla.  This is one that I’m dying to decant or try again after letting it rest ten years.

I loved the diversity and tasting the differences the terroir makes in the vineyard.  As Ravenswood stated in the press kit, “Our Single Vineyard Designate wines are as unique as the individual vineyards they’re from and the people who farm them.  We strive to put what we pick from the fields right into the bottle.  Unadulterated, unapologetic, unfussy, unwimpy.”  And what is better than that as a mantra?

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