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Foppiano Russian River Merlot 1997
This Merlots juicy youthfulness makes it an excellent match with Spring Lamb, herbed pastas and grilled brochette of beef. It also makes an excellent companion to chocolate-based desserts, and fruit salads with dark berries as the main ingredient.
Foppiano Vineyards is proud of their Italian heritage and deep, 120-year roots in the Russian River Valley. The story of Foppiano Vineyards is a family epic full of tradition, perseverance and contributions to the history of Sonoma County and the wine industry. Founded in 1896 by Giovanni Foppiano, Foppiano Vineyards is Sonoma’s oldest continually operated, family-owned winery. Their family has supplied northern California with wine for over a century surviving Prohibition. They believe that through the strength of family and a commitment to quality, their traditions will be maintained and thrive. The vision of the fifth generation of the Foppiano family guides our winery into the future while creating a world class wine program representative of their history.
Nestled in the rolling hills of Sonoma County, Foppiano Vineyards sits on a 160-acre estate in Russian River Valley, an American Viticulture Area Louis M. Foppiano helped to establish. Cooling morning fog and warm summer days created the ideal microclimate for grapes. Since 1896 their estate vineyards have produced ripe, expressive fruit, enabling our award-winning wines to speak for themselves, vintage after vintage. Their estate Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay vineyards thrive in the temperate climate of the Russian River Valley. Foppiano Vineyards’ premier location, combined with their foundation of core family values, has allowed them to produce quality wines for over 100 years. With a great respect for the earth, the family farms their land sustainably and provides the highest level of care and maintenance. It is their goal to ensure the vineyards continue to produce quality fruit for many years to come.
A standout region for its decidedly Californian take on Burgundian varieties, the Russian River Valley is named for the eponymous river that flows through it. While there are warm pockets of the AVA, it is mostly a cool-climate growing region thanks to breezes and fog from the nearby Pacific Ocean.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir reign supreme in Russian River, with the best examples demonstrating a unique combination of richness and restraint. The cool weather makes Russian River an ideal AVA for sparkling wine production, utilizing the aforementioned varieties. Zinfandel also performs exceptionally well here. Within the Russian River Valley lie the smaller appellations of Chalk Hill and Green Valley. The former, farther from the ocean, is relatively warm, with a focus on red and white Bordeaux varieties. The latter is the coolest, foggiest parcel of the Russian River Valley and is responsible for outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
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.