Sourced primarily from the Central Coast, Napa and Sonoma, our 1997 Merlot is a marriage of the best fruit from Californias cool coastal regions. The broad array of choice growing areas allow our winemakers unparalleled winestyle flexibility. Our desire to make a lush, elegant Merlot led our winemakers to select fruit from multiple wine growing appellations. The grapes for our 1997 Merlot were largely selected from vineyards in cooler growing climates such as Livermore Valley, just east of San Francisco Bay and Napa Valley. In these cool-climate areas, the grapes ripen slowly, revealing elegant varietal flavors, refreshing acidity, and ultimately produce wines with silkiness on the palate.
An unseasonably warm winter lead to an early bud-break followed by even warmer spring days. Harvest looked like it would be plentiful and occur early until chance rains in August greatly thinned the cvines. Although the resulting crop quantity was less than originally expected, the remaining grapes attained high levels of flavor concentration with an early September heat wave and following cool autumn. The resulting extended hang time further increased the flavor concentration of the grapes.
We harvested in the early morning hours to retain acidity levels and to ensure that the fruit remained cool when it arrived in our Winery. This minimizes bitter tannin extraction, which can make a finished wine harsh, while preserving the aromatic flavors and rich fruit character of the grapes. Further bitter tannins were reduced by destemming prior to fermentation, and retaining significant quantities of whole berries. This minimizes excess skin and seed contact and alleviates a "green and stemmy" taste. The resulting juice and mist were transferred to stainless steel tanks for fermentation, where we kept temperatures slightly warmer at 85o to develop full, lush fruit flavors.
After fermentation was completed, the wine was put through malolactic fermentation to develop smoothness by softening the acidity. The final blend was then racked into predominantly small American oak barrels deepening the cedar and toasty flavors of the finished wine. During the elevage period (or aging time in barrel) over the next eight to twelve months, the wine was racked every four to six months. The wine was then filtered and bottled in June, 1999.