Mer Soleil Reserve Pinot Noir 2016
A rich, deep red – the color of Bing cherries – this wine opens with scents of dark berries, pomace, and the woodiness of a hiking path in a redwood forest. Soft, powdery traces of old-fashioned lipstick add an intriguing element to the nose. Entry is smooth, with bright cherry flavors and a “berry basket” of blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Pomace and brown spice infuse the palate, which is round and coats the mouth. An initial flash of fruit gives way to soft tannins, natural acidity, and an evocative earthy character. The finish is unusually long, with hints of cranberry adding an unexpected note to the mix of this wine’s many layers.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Mer Soleil began in the late 1980s, with a journey to the central coast of California in search of ideal conditions to plant Chardonnay. Our first vineyards were in the Santa Lucia Highlands, a small but exceptional appellation about a 30-minute drive from Monterey. With morning fog, bright sunshine and howling gusts of afternoon wind, the region’s dramatic weather leads to an extended growing season, enabling us to make wines with distinctive aromas and flavors.
In addition to our Reserve Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands, we recently introduced a Reserve Pinot Noir, also from the Santa Lucia Highlands. Our SILVER unoaked Chardonnay comes from Monterey County – it is fermented and aged in a combination of stainless steel and concrete tanks. We also offer a Reserve Chardonnay from Santa Barbara county, where slightly warmer temperatures than in the Santa Lucia Highlands create subtle differences in the wine. Mer Soleil is led by owner and winemaker Charlie Wagner, who is passionate about how all these wines celebrate the California coast.
Perhaps the most highly regarded appellation within Monterey County, Santa Lucia Highlands AVA benefits from a combination of warm morning sunshine and brisk afternoon breezes, allowing grapes to ripen slowly and fully. The result is concentrated, flavorful wines that retain their natural acidity. Wineries here do not shy away from innovation, and place a high priority on sustainable viticultural practices.
The climatic conditions here are perfectly suited to the production of ripe, rich Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These Burgundian varieties dominate an overwhelming percentage of plantings, though growers have also found success with Syrah, Riesling and Pinot Gris.
One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).
In the Glass
Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay, not Pinot noir. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Village or Cru level wines. So "red Burgundy" still necessarily refers to Pinot noir.