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Merlot was first planted at Stags' Leap in 1971 and produced its first vintage in 1977. Sensitive to both climate and soil, Merlot is not an easy grape to grow nor a wine easily made. But the grape seems to have found a good home in the Napa Valley. At Stags' Leap it is our diverse collection of soils that begins to define the differences between two blocks of Merlot plantings, both situated on the western side of the vineyard just 400 feet apart. Block 17 is in a region where layers of rock mingle with sedimentary clays from the mountain shales and river silt. In Merlot block 21, deeper surface loam overlays a composition of less clay and a greater proportion of sand and gravel. Block 21 is the first Merlot we harvest each year. The grapes have firm structure and a distinct briary character. Some four weeks later, we harvest Block 17 where aromas of plum and blackberry dominate the fruit and the mouthfeel is velvety soft.
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