La Jota Howell Mountain Merlot 2013
Blend: 91.5 % Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4.5% Petit Verdot
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
La Jota wines are handcrafted at our original 1898 fieldstone winery and hillside cave. From the low yielding vines of 28 mountain acres, they produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and our crown jewel, the annual Heritage Release Cabernet Sauvignon (formerly the Anniversary Release).
While growing grapes in the nutrient-lean, volcanic soils of the La Jota estate is a challenge, the rewards are undeniable. Highly concentrated flavors and muscular tannins slowly mature to perfection, while the cool winds, diurnal temperature swings and high altitude keep the grape acids impeccably balanced, revealing the distinctive voice of our estate.
Viticulturist, Mariano Navarro, and winemaker, Christopher Carpenter, understand the meticulous requirements of mountain farming and mountain winemaking. Their goal is to gently tame tannins while allowing the intriguing mineral, spice and sweet forest loam characters unique to our estate to enhance the complexity of our opulent fruit.
The result? La Jota wines offer elegance and cellar worthiness.
Winemaking in Howell Mountain was abandoned during Prohibition, and wasn’t reawakened until the arrival of Randy Dunn, a talented winemaker famous for the success of Caymus in the 1970s and 1980s. In the early eighties, he set his sights on the Napa hills and subsequently astonished the wine world with a Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Shortly thereafter Howell Mountain became officially recognized as the first sub-region of Napa Valley (1983).
With vineyards at 1,400 to 2,000 feet in elevation, they predominantly sit above the fog line but the days in Howell Mountain remain cooler than those in the heart of the valley, giving the grapes a bit more time on the vine.
The Howell Mountain AVA includes 1,000 acres of vineyards interspersed by forestlands in the Vaca Mountains. The soils, shallow and infertile with good drainage, are volcanic ash and red clay and produce highly concentrated berries with thick skins. The resulting wines are full of structure and potential to age.
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.