The first reference to Merlot was in 1784, it takes 632 grapes to produce a bottle, and since Calistoga makes some amazing Merlot wines, these facts are worth mentioning. As the weather turns cooler, here is a list of some Calistoga wineries where you can taste some this amazing grape, as a wine oftentimes described as “cashmere in a glass”:
Castello di Amorosa offers a Napa Valley Merlot with excellent depth and balance, and notes of black cherry, mocha, and spice, leaving a smooth dark chocolate aftertaste.
Clos Pegase offers a Mitsuko’s Vineyard Merlot, described as exotic and complex, with aromas of blackberry liqueur, red fruits and wild violets. These aromas are enhanced by nuances of fresh pipe tobacco, anise, cinnamon spice and plum. The wine fills the mouth with broad and complex fruit flavors, counterbalanced by a round and substantial mid-palate and lengthy finish.
Girard Winery: Brand new to Calistoga, Girard Winery is a beautiful property on Dunaweal Lane, featuring state-of-the-art winemaking facilities, panoramic views of the Vaca and Mayacamas Mountains and spectacular wine.
Hans Fahden Vineyards produces a merlot with grapes from the Sierra Foothills. The grapes in this region have a long history dating back to the California Gold Rush, a fact the winery owners and winemakers love. Hans Fahden Merlot is a varietal wine distinct in its big fruit notes.
Joseph Cellars showcases a merlot made with grapes grown in the Oakville region.
Kenefick Ranch offers a merlot with copious notes of red fruit, strawberry jam and spicy notes. Fresh berry preserve shows on the entry, bright acidity integrates the oak tannin, creating a creamy mid palate.
Romeo Vineyards offers an elegant 2012 Merlot described as dark berries with toasty oak.
Sterling Vineyards has a Reserve Merlot that exhibits intense black cherry, raspberry, clove, and toasty oak characters from Sterling’s finest vineyards throughout Napa Valley, including Winery Lake Vineyard and Bear Flats Vineyard. Individual Merlot blocks were chosen for their fruit intensity and true varietal personality.
Summers Estate has a Knight’s Valley merlot, one of many award winners produced in the past 20 years. This full-bodied 2012 vintage represents an elegant example of vineyard blocks which have produced outstanding wines over the years. Nicely balanced with ideal tannins, it exhibits complex notes of cedar, cranberry, red licorice, cardamom, and wild herbs with a long, lingering finish.
Tamber Bey offers an elegant and exquisite merlot from its Signature Series, made with grapes from the Deux Chevaux Vineyard in the Yountville AVA. The nose blends fleshy stone fruits, with a hint of strawberry and blackberry pie mixed with a little smokiness and lavender. The mouth is fresh and round, with red and black cherry blending with violet, black licorice and vanilla bean. The earthy finish delivers cocoa powder and cigar box notes.
Tedeschi Family Winery has a 2012 Merlot awarded 2 gold and 2 silver medals in the Grand Harvest Awards, American Fine Wine Competition, SF Chronicle Wine Comp & San Francisco Int’l Wine Competition. Perfumed notes of ripe plum, cherry, bay leaf, along with notes of tobacco box and cedar spices leads to a juicy palate that unfolds with black cherry, raspberry, and hints of cola spice. Smooth, soft tannins and great balance allow this wine to age gracefully over the next 6 to 12 years. Pair this with Fettuccine Alfredo.
Twomey Cellars (sister property of Silver Oak) offers a Soda Canyon Ranch Merlot from the Napa Valley. This garnet colored wine with a nose of blackberry, licorice, graphite, tar, dark chocolate and cloves combines the refinement of old world wine-making with the expressiveness and generosity of California fruit. The velvety mouth-feel of this wine is remarkable. The palate begins with a hint of blackberry fruit and builds to a long finish of fruit compote, chocolate and fine-grained tannins. Given proper cellaring, this wine will give drinking pleasure through 2030.
Vincent Arroyo Winery offers a merlot as one of their many delicious varietals. This laidback winery is tucked in the heart of Calistoga and also produces olive oils and vinegars.
One more note as a nod to Merlot: It is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine, and it is the most widely planted grape in the Bordeaux wine regions. Its tannin structure is low so you can enjoy that bottle now. It is sometimes considered a starter wine and offers a mellow, medium-bodied juice, rich in opulent flavors with robust berry hue with notes of chocolate, cherries and earth…oh my! You had me at Merlot.