Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Merlot 2018
Red ruby color, the 2018 Merlot expresses red and blue fruits, composed of dried cherries, ripe strawberry, blue berry cobbler, fruit cake, red raspberry jam, and plum. A very pleasant complexity includes baking spice, leather, milk chocolate and arugula. The spicy oak is very well integrated. Entry and finish are very smooth, with fruit resembling cherry and plum nuances. This Merlot has a good overall balance of fruit, body, and tannin, with a long fruitful finish.
The history of Freemark Abbey began in 1886, when Josephine Marlin Tychson became the first woman to build and operate a winery in California. The historic site where Josephine's winery, Tychson Cellars, once stood is now known as Freemark Abbey.
Josephine, a native of San Lorenzo, California and her husband, John Tychson, a Danish immigrant, moved to St. Helena in 1881. For $8,500, they purchased 147 acres north of St. Helena, which later became known as "Tychson Hill".
Shortly after her husband's untimely death, Josephine began construction of a fifty square foot redwood winery which would grow to hold a capacity of about 30,000 gallons. In addition, she hired Nils Larsen, an experienced vintner, as her foreman. Josephine successfully produced wine for the next eight years and then sold the winery to Larsen in 1894. In turn, Larsen leased the winery to Antonio Forni, a good friend of Josephine's. Forni later purchased the property in 1898. Forni is responsible for building a new winery on the old site of the Tychson structure.
In the years that followed, Freemark Abbey went through a period of several different owners until 1966, when a group of partners purchased the winery.
Ted Edwards is one of the longest tenured winemakers in Napa Valley. After forty years as director of winemaking at Freemark Abbey, Ted transitioned to the role of Winemaker Emeritus in 2020. In his new role, Ted is charged with ensuring the Freemark Abbey wines retain the continuity of style and excellence that the winery has built its reputation on. He continues his involvement in all aspects of winemaking and vineyard practices, and more, imparting his wealth of knowledge and experience with winemaker Kristy Melton.
Kristy Melton has more than a decade of experience crafting wines with structure, finesse, and age-worthiness. Before joining Freemark Abbey, Kristy held winemaking roles at several Napa Valley and Sonoma County wineries including Clos Du Val, Bootleg, Kendall-Jackson, Saintsbury, and others. In her role as Director of Winemaking at Napa Valley’s iconic Clos Du Val, her exceptional ability to craft modern wines of balance and elegance was widely credited for the winery’s reemergence as a leader in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon production.
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.