Wine Varietals: June 2007 Archives

The Merlot Lovers Tour of Napa Valley

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Though Cab may reign supreme in Napa these days, Merlot has always been a member of the royal family--though somewhat in exile these days. But tastes are a fickle thing, and those who know the true beauty of a silky, carefully crafted Merlot aren't slaves to fashion, or the whims of Hollywood.

For those who remain true to great Napa Merlots, this is a wonderful time to taste the grape that steadfastly refuses to slink away quietly while others have their moment in the sun. In fact, 2002, according to published reports was one of the best years ever for Napa Merlot, with several top wines receiving stellar scores and launching a quiet renaissance of this noble grape.

Take a special varietal-inspired tour of Napa's best Merlot producers, located primarily along the Silverado Trail, but dipping into Rutherford, as well.

If anyone thought the 1976 Paris tasting, where several virtually unknown Napa wines bested their French counterparts was a fluke, they'll have to contend the 2006 COPIA tasting. In May, two panels convened--one in England, and other in Napa at COPIA--to re-evaluate the original wines and see who's stood the test of time. The results: the 1971 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon from the Santa Cruz Mountains finished in first, followed by the 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cab, with a third place tie between the 1970 Heitz Martha's Vineyard Napa Valley Cab, the 1971 Mayacamas Vineyards Cab and a 1972 Clos du Val Napa Valley Cab.

Passport to Calaveras County

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calaveras.jpgBest known for its jumping frogs (courtesy of Mark Twain) and the once-bustling gold mines dotting the region, Calaveras County is a historic Gold Country outpost nestled into the foothills the Sierra Nevadas. And though each year, the county holds its jumping frog festival and eager tourists still pan for gold in the hills, Calaveras has another attraction bringing eager tasters from near and far--wine.

There's just something about Pinot Noir that inspires near fanaticism in both winemakers and wine drinkers. Some say it's the inherent difficulty of growing the grapes that makes the reward all the sweeter. Others insist that, unlike other grapes, Pinot Noir holds the imprint of the grower and winemaker like no other varietal. Whatever the case, hordes of Pinot lovers will converge in Oregon's Willamette Valley this July to celebrate their passion for this amazing grape.
Pinot Noir got its start in America a little over 100 years ago in a rather surprising spot: Santa Cruz. Brought over by Paul Masson, a French immigrant (yes, that Paul Masson, of jug wine fame), the first cuttings were reportedly from the Burgundian vineyards of Louis Latour.

Now known as the "Cradle of Pinot Noir", this mountainous region is producing elegant Burgundian-style Pinots with intense fruit and complexity. Gaining the respect of increasing numbers of Pinot drinkers, the Santa Cruz appellation--which spans a wide swath from Half Moon Bay to Watsonville--has firmly established itself as a hotspot for this notoriously fickle grape by winning award after award for its steadfastly individual wines.

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