Geyser Peak Reserve Merlot 2001
Founded in 1880 as California’s 29th bonded winery, Geyser Peak Winery has more than 135 years of winemaking history in Sonoma County. Originally located perched on a hillside across from Geyser Peak Mountain, its namesake, it commanded a view of the thermal steam clouds that billowed from the mountain summit. Here, in this special place, geothermal activity created the diverse soil pro?les that make this region so exceptionally well suited to wine grape cultivation.
At the forefront of production since its earliest days, Geyser Peak wines are sourced from prime vineyards that capture the essence of Sonoma. Today, located in Dry Creek Valley, Geyser Peak’s winemakers are carrying the winery’s rich history forward and staking an exciting claim on the future. Specializing in aromatic whites and rich reds, wines are crafted in small lots and fermented separately, then blended together to achieve full expression, balance and character. Each wine captures the essence of Sonoma and the appellation’s unique terroir, offering sophistication and ease, elevation and approachability, and taking us from casual days to connoisseur nights.
Home to a diverse array of smaller AVAs with varied microclimates and soil types, Sonoma County has something for every wine lover. Physically twice as large as Napa Valley, the region only produces about half the amount of wine but boasts both tremendous quality and variety. With its laid-back atmosphere and down-to-earth attitude, the wineries of Sonoma are appreciated by wine tourists for their friendliness and approachability. The entire county intends to become a 100% sustainable winegrowing region by 2019.
Grape varieties are carefully selected to reflect the best attributes of their sites—Dry Creek Valley’s consistent sunshine is ideal for Zinfandel, while the warm Alexander Valley is responsible for rich, voluptuous Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are important throughout the county, most notably in the cooler AVAs of Russian River, Sonoma Coast and Carneros. Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Syrah have also found a firm footing here.
An easy-going red variety with generous fruit and a supple texture, Merlot can be made into a range of styles from everyday-drinking to world-renowned and age-worthy. Merlot is the dominant variety in the best wines from Bordeaux’s Right Bank regions of St. Emilion and Pomerol where it is blended with Cabernet Franc. On the Left Bank in the Medoc, it plays a supporting role to Cabernet Sauvignon—in both cases resulting in some of the longest-lived and highest-quality wines in the world. Merlot also frequently shines on its own, particularly from California’s Napa Valley.
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.