The 2004 Napa Valley Merlot was produced from grapes sourced throughout the heart of the Napa Valley, where Beaulieu Vineyard has grown grapes and made wine for more than 100 years. They have combined the rich flavors of Rutherford grapes with fruit from cooler microclimates and soils that are best suited to growing Merlot grapes. Blending fruit from different vineyards resulted in excellent structure and varietal character in the finished wine.
This Merlot reveals a rich bouquet of ripe cherries, plums and clove, with a touch of toast and vanilla from the oak. On the palate, lush flavors of ripe red fruit and a hint of cocoa are beautifully framed by soft tannins. A nice acidity complements the lingering fruit on the finish.
This wine pairs well with marinated grilled pork tenderloin, roast duck with cherry sauce or semi-hard cheeses like Fontina d'Aosta.
Beaulieu Vineyard Winery
The deep roots of Beaulieu Vineyard were first planted back in 1900, when founder Georges de Latour noticed similarities with his native Bordeaux and declared the Napa Valley ideal for winemaking. Planting vineyards in Rutherford with grafted, phylloxera-resistent French vines, the Cabernet Sauvignon that de Latour crafted from these grapes gave the world a taste of California's promise as a world-class winemaking region. In 1938, de Latour hired the young Russian-French enologist, Andre Tchelistcheff. Today, Beaulieu continues to turn to innovative practices. Most recently, they completed a new state-of-the-art winery within one of their original buildings. The Georges de Latour Private Reserve Winery utilizes the latest technology in combination with time-honored traditions for the production of this exceptional wine.
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It's hard not to think of Napa Valley when thinking of California wines. The region is, after all, the one that brought world recognition to California wine making. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux Blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two is St.-Helena and finally, just granted an AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap and Mount Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Fruity
Red wines that are more fruit-forward and lighter in tannin and body.
Smooth & Supple
Medium bodied reds that go down easy, with smooth tannins and supple fruit.
Earthy & Spicy
Wines where earthy and/or spicy dominate the flavors – typically medium to full body.
Big & Bold
Full bodied wines that have concentrated fruit and are higher in alcohol and/or tannins. Some need age.