Legends often begin in the most ordinary surroundings. For Tony Cartlidge and Glen Browne, as with many great entrepreneurs and iconoclasts of the 20th century, the legend began in 1980 in an undistinguished Napa Valley garage. Cartlidge—a dreamer with a love of wine and a fondness for taking the road less traveled—and Browne—a man of great business sense and a small amount to invest—set out to build a wine company from scratch.
As far as they could tell, there was no need (or, more to the point, not enough money) to buy an estate. Only a desire to seek out the best vineyards, harvest the best grapes and make the best wine possible.
Cartlidge scoured the appellations of the North Coast in his 1960 Rambler, from Napa to Sonoma to Mendocino to Lake, to source grapes farmed with care and concern for the land. He brought the harvest back to a simple garage winery to handcraft wines they knew people would enjoy as much as they did. Cartlidge & Browne wines soon began to garner raves from critics and wine lovers alike.
As Napa Valley’s third most planted grape, Napa Valley Merlot shows time and time again its potential to produce exceptional results. Napa’s vaunted combination of climate, soil and the human factor of winemaking expertise lead to big, ripe, cellar-worthy and world-class versions.
Whether made by itself in single varietal bottlings or as an important role in Bordeaux Blends, Merlot continues a prominent role in this famous region. While Cabernet typically takes the lead role, Merlot’s contribution—even at 10% to 20% or so—is significant indeed. Often described as “the flesh on Cabernet’s bones,” Merlot lends a soft, round and plush character that beautifully complements Cabernet’s linear, full-throttle structure. Its flavors of plums plus subtle herbs and mint also dovetail nicely with Cabernet’s blackberry and cassis.