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Leonetti Merlot 2011

Merlot from Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Valley, Washington
  • WE93
  • RP93
  • WS91
14% ABV
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14% ABV

Winemaker Notes

Beautiful, deep ruby color. 2011 was the coolest vintage in the Walla Walla Valley in 20 years. It was a winemakers vintage and one that will forever separate the "men from the boys." Everything had to be executed to perfection in the vineyard, a feat in which we managed to accomplish. Merlot, being the earliest variety we have to ripen, was truly at home in this vintage and produced a wine I can aptly describe as resembling the finest Right Bank Claret from Bordeaux. Such is its leaness, levity, and beauty. The nose is just loaded with pure red and blue berries, along with floral notes. Fantastic acid punctuates the lovely finish.

Critical Acclaim

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WE 93
Wine Enthusiast
This is 100% varietal Merlot, aged 15 months in new and neutral French oak barrels and botti. It’s tangy, sleek and supple, with a spectrum of fruit from cranberry on through blackberry. Tannins are polished and mouth-coating, with substantial power. The finish brings hints of herbs and black olives. Cellar Selection.
RP 93
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
Coming from the estate Loess, Seven Hills and Mill Creek Upland vineyards in Walla Walla, the 2011 Merlot is a superb, plush and yet gorgeously elegant and detailed effort that boasts knockout aromatics of spring flowers, black cherry, plum, licorice and dusty mineral on the nose. Already complex and approachable, it nevertheless has full-bodied richness on the palate, as well as a supple, mouth-filling texture, juicy acidity and no hard edges. Drink it over the coming decade. Drink now-2023.
WS 91
Wine Spectator
Firm in texture, showing pepper and licorice flavors at first, followed by plum and currant fruit that fills in the taut frame. Needs time to soften and unfurl.
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Leonetti

Leonetti Cellar

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Leonetti Cellar, Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Valley, Washington
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Exclusive production of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have been the hallmark of Gary Figgins' Leonetti Cellar winery in the suburbs of Walla Walla. Grapes from his own vineyard and from other nearby properties are used to create these rich and robust varietal wines. The attractive new winery building made of native stone houses barrel storage and fermenting tanks.

Walla Walla Valley

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Responsible for some of Washington’s most highly acclaimed wines, the Walla Walla Valley has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years and is home to both historic wineries and younger, up-and-coming producers.

The Walla Walla Valley, a Native American name meaning “many waters,” is located in southeastern Washington; part of the appellation actually extends into Oregon. Soils here are well-drained, sandy loess over Missoula Flood deposits and fractured basalt.

It is a region perfectly suited to Rhône-inspired Syrahs, distinguished by savory notes of red berry, black olive, smoke and fresh earth. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot create a range of styles from smooth and supple to robust and well-structured. White varieties are rare but some producers blend Sauvignon Blanc with Sémillon, resulting in a rich and round style, and plantings of Viognier, while minimal, are often quite successful.

Of note within Walla Walla, is one new and very peculiar appellation, called the Rocks District of Milton-Freewater. This is the only AVA in the U.S. whose boundaries are totally defined by the soil type. Soils here look a bit like those in the acclaimed Rhône region of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but are large, ancient, basalt cobblestones. These stones work in the same way as they do in Chateauneuf, absorbing and then radiating the sun's heat up to enhance the ripening of grape clusters. The Rocks District is within the part of Walla Walla that spills over into Oregon and naturally excels in the production of Rhône varieties like Syrah, as well as the Bordeaux varieties.

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.

Perfect Pairings

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.

Sommelier Secret

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.

CAR260118_11_2011 Item# 123197