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Buena Vista Merlot 1997
Before there were vineyards in every valley north of San Francisco, before Napa and Sonoma were household names, before there was a California wine world at all, there was Buena Vista. Founded in 1857, Buena Vista is California’s first premium winery, and its history is as colorful as it is proud. Today, the legend is being re-born under the vision of Jean-Charles Boisset, with Winemaker Brian Maloney in the cellar. The winery's future is its past… its vivacious, colorful, and pioneering past!
Buena Vista Winery has a rich, delicious heritage as the first premium, and certainly the most colorful, of all of the wineries in California. Founded in 1857 by Agoston Haraszthy, the self-proclaimed “Count”, Buena Vista Winery is California’s first premium winery. The Count’s passion for innovation and excellence not only led to California’s first premium winery, but also to the development of the California wine world as we know it today. The Count saw the grand vision for producing fine wine in Sonoma, and Buena Vista was his vinicultural laboratory. He created the first gravity flow winery in California and excavated the first wine caves. The Count had been the first to experiment with Redwood barrels for aging and fermenting, and he brought over 300 different varieties from Europe to California. Buena Vista joined the Boisset Collection in May 2011. Today, Proprietor Jean-Charles Boisset is returning Buena Vista to its original glory with the complete restoration and re-opening of the champagne cellars, which have been unavailable to the public for over 20 years. Buena Vista wines are being driven to greater heights under Winemaker Brian Maloney, including the reintroduction of Sonoma as well as Napa Valley, in honor of where it all began!
Known for elegant wines that combine power and finesse, Carneros is set in the rolling hills that straddle the southernmost parts of both Sonoma and Napa counties. The cooling winds from the abutting San Pablo Bay, combined with lots of midday California sunshine, create an ideal environment for producing wines with a perfect balance of crisp acidity and well-ripened fruit.
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.
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.
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.