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Flat front label of wine

Atalon Merlot 2002

Merlot from Napa Valley, California
  • RP89
0% ABV
  • RP88
  • CG88
  • RP91
  • RP91
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Winemaker Notes

With its dark, saturated purple color, the 2001 Merlot roars with powerful aromas and flavors of red and black cherry, pomegranate, ripe plums, blackberry, fresh basil, dried lavender, white pepper, smoked meats and olives. Plush tannins and dense flavors are balanced with amazing richness and toasty oak.

- Atalon Winemaker, Thomas Peffer

"...check out Atalon's 2001 Merlot, a sexy, seductive, mocha-infused, black cherry liqueur-filled effort displaying a hint of chocolate in its plump, lush, rich, medium to full-bodied personality. Bursting with fruit, it will provide immense enjoyment over the next 5-7 years."
-Wine Advocate

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Critical Acclaim

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RP 89
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
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Atalon

Atalon

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Atalon, Napa Valley, California
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The soul of the Atalon story is a ghost winery dating back to 1888. Built by General W.S. Keyes, the white-stone building atop Howell Mountain claims a stake in Napa Valley viticultural lore. At the turn of the twentieth century, General Keyes was producing wines considered to be among the best in Napa County from this old landmark.

The famed Howell Mountain property was acquired by the Jackson family in 1996 and renamed the Keyes Vineyard in honor of the early farmer's pioneering viticultural contributions. Today, the historic ghost winery stands as a strong reminder of a 150-year old tradition of growing wine grapes within the thirty-mile stretch of the Napa Valley frontier.

In 1997, Atalon was created to revive the vineyard's past accomplishments and to build on the area's reputation for producing remarkable red wines. Although inspired by ghosts long gone, Atalon wines reflect a modern understanding of farming Napa's rugged mountains and valleys for the most balanced and expressive wines.

Drawing fruit from selected vineyards, the wines are a composite of vineyards stretching from the rolling hills of Napa-Carneros in the south to the peaks of Howell Mountain in the north. Atalon is dedicated to the true essence and flavor of the Napa Valley, a distinction defined by Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Napa Valley

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One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production as well as tourism, the Napa Valley was responsible for bringing worldwide recognition to California winemaking. In the 1960's, a few key wine families settled the area and hedged their bets on the valley's world-class winemaking potential—and they were right.

The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when producers scooped up vineyard lands and planted vines throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, and today Napa is home to hundreds of producers ranging from boutique to corporate. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Napa whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that claim specific characteristics based on situation, slope and soil. Farthest south and coolest from the influence of the San Pablo Bay is Carneros, followed by Coombsville to its northeast and then Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford. Above those is the warm St. Helena and the valley's newest and hottest AVA, Calistoga. These areas follow the valley floor and are known generally for creating rich, dense, complex and smooth reds with good aging potential. The mountain sub appellations, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs, include Stags Leap District, Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley (farther east), Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain District and Diamond Mountain District. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from a lot of time in the bottle to evolve and soften.

An easy-going red variety with generous fruit and a supple texture, Merlot’s subtle tannins make it perfect for early drinking and allow it to pair with a wide range of foods. But the grape also has enough stuffing to make serious, world-renowned wines. One simply needs to look to Bordeaux to understand Merlot's status as a noble variety. On the region’s Right Bank, in St. Emilion and Pomerol, it dominates in blends with Cabernet Franc. On the Left Bank in the Medoc, it plays a supporting role to (and helps soften) Cabernet Sauvignon—in both cases resulting in some of the longest-lived and highest-quality wines in the world. They are often emulated elsewhere in Bordeaux-style blends, particularly in California’s Napa Valley, where Merlot also frequently shines on its own.

In the Glass

Merlot is known for its soft, silky texture and approachable flavors of ripe plum, red and black cherry and raspberry. In a cool climate, you may find earthier notes alongside dried herbs, tobacco and tar, while Merlot from warmer regions is generally more straightforward and fruit-focused.

Perfect Pairings

Lamb with Merlot is an ideal match—the sweetness of the meat picks up on the sweet fruit flavors of the wine to create a harmonious balance. Merlot’s gentle tannins allow for a hint of spice and its medium weight and bright acidity permit the possibilities of simple pizza or pasta with red sauce—overall, an extremely versatile food wine.

Sommelier Secret

Since the release of the 2004 film Sideways, Merlot's repuation has taken a big hit, and more than a decade later has yet to fully recover, though it is on its way. What many viewers didn't realize was that as much as Miles derided the variety, the prized wine of his collection—a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc—is made from a blend of Merlot with Cabernet Franc.

PBC1141746_2002 Item# 82778