Leese-Fitch Merlot 2018
The 2018 Leese-Fitch Merlot is bright and inviting with aromas of ripe red fruits; raspberry, cherry and pomegranate. Additional aromas of red currants, clove spice and sweet vanilla lead to a medium-bodied, juicy palate. Layers of juicy fruit flavors, black olive and notes of dried lavender add complexity. The wine is rich with incredibly smooth tannins all underpinned with good acidity leaving a long, flavorful finish.
Blend: 80% Merlot, 10% Petite Sirah, 6% Tempranillo, 2% Zinfandel, 2% Malbec
The wines of Leese-Fitch are wines that celebrate the deep heritage of California embodied in the iconic Leese-Fitch Adobe built in the 1830s and still at home in the historic town of Sonoma, California today. More than simple wines from California, these wines classically represent each varietal from which they are made.
Truly a representation of everything California, Leese-Fitch was born in the town of Sonoma. The state of California was also born in this now quiet, rural town. Before the glitz of Hollywood, prior to the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and the innovation of Silicon Valley – in California there was the town of Sonoma. Early one Sunday morning, General Vallejo, who possessed the land grant that included the town, heard a knock at his door. A small, yet heavily-armed group of Americans requested that he surrender Sonoma. The General, who later went on to serve in the California State Senate, peacefully acquiesced. To legitimize their conquest, the Americans drew a crude rendition of a grizzly bear on canvas along with the words “California Republic.” In the center of the Sonoma Plaza, a new flag was raised. The Republic of California was born.
Today the fourth most widely planted red variety in the state, Merlot has much to offer. While it bears similarities to Cabernet Sauvignon (its half-sibling), it tends to be lower in both acidity and tannins, giving Merlot wines a mouthfeel that is often perceived as soft, round and plush. These qualities make it an ideal blending partner for Cabernet, the two complementing each other throughout.
Merlot arrived relatively late to the California wine scene. It wasn’t until the 1970’s when producers like Louis Martini, Sterling and Matanzas Creek—influenced by European Merlot blends—began crafting single varietal versions. These trend-setting bottles opened the eyes of others in the California wine scene and spurred increased plantings. From there, the variety’s lush drinkability led to a surge in popularity, then overplanting (some of it on unsuitable sites) and finally a backlash that was turbo-charged by the infamous 2004 film, Sideways. What most 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.
Fine examples of California Merlot—either as a single varietal wine or as part of a blend—can be found from Napa Valley, Sonoma County, the Central Coast and most regions around the state. Merlot wines offer a ripe, sensual mouthful of plummy fruit, suggestions of mint, herbs and vanilla, all carried along by an approachable structure and often, a great potential for improving with age.