This wine highlights our greater use of newer oak which serves as an enhancer to the sweet, fruity flavors of the grape. The newer oak offers more spicy flavors in the wine, and there's a hint of herbs and spiced chocolate. In the nose, there are qualities of roasted grain and toasted vanilla. The 1996 Merlot is luscious and mouthfilling yet refreshing. Because of the ripeness in the fruit, this vintage is less tea-like, with more black fruits and rich cherry flavors. There is also a bright dash of black pepper and spice. The 1996 Napa Valley Merlot is an appealing, friendly wine that can be enjoyed with a variety of dishes, from seared sea bass to a rich meaty stew.