McIntyre Kimberly Vineyards Merlot 2012
The McIntyre estate vineyard is located in the central section of the Santa Lucia Highlands. Originally planted by the McFarland family in 1973, it boasts some of the Highlands oldest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines. A 1979 Pinot Noir from the vineyard, under the Stony Hill label, is still regarded as one of the finest early varietally-labeled Pinots from the district.
Early bud break and fruit set are one of the advantages of McIntyres highland location. Mid-season leaf pulling and other canopy management techniques help focus the vine's efforts. Harvest on the McIntyre estate typically begins in mid-September and can run to late October. The McIntyre family employs sustainable viticultural practices on the home estate, through the use of biodiverse systems and cover crops.
Named after the dramatic, seasonal river of rain and snowmelt that cuts through the upper elevations of the Santa Lucia Mountains, the Arroyo Seco AVA extends east from the resultant mountain gorge, and into the rural and warm Salinas Valley. During the growing season, cool and damp Pacific Ocean air penetrates the gorge and flows into the valley, creating a cool evening respite for vineyards after a hot summer day. This natural water-release has also created a subterranean aquifer, which helps set the foundation of the AVA's boundaries and supplies the vineyards with water.
Arroyo Seco was actually home to the first commercial vineyard in California, called Mission Ranch, which was owned and propogated by the Mirassou family in the 1960s.
Arroyo Seco is one of the oldest AVAs in California, its status granted in the early 1980s, and also remains one of its smallest.
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.