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Starmont Merlot 2014
The Starmont story began over 25 years ago, starting as an integral part of the Merryvale brand. Led by the Starmont Chardonnay and delivering high quality Carneros and Napa Valley wines at approachable prices, Starmont complemented the more mature Merryvale portfolio. For a decade and a half, these two brands shared space at our venerable St. Helena facility. It was a perfect partnership, but as Starmont grew from a single wine into a full-fledged brand, it became time to move out.
Opportunity to find a new home was realized in 2005. Starmont acquired 50 acres of prime Carneros vineyard, a portion of the Stanly Ranch Estate first planted in 1872, and broke ground on the new winery the same year. Honoring the heritage of the vineyard, Starmont has constructed a state-of-the-art “green” winery. Among other steps taken towards sustainability, the Starmont Winery recycles 100% of winery process water, diverts over 98% of waste away from ending up in a landfill and generates enough electricity each day to power over 250 homes. In creating a certified Napa Green Winery, Starmont ensures that the surrounding area will remain pristine for future generations to enjoy.
Known for elegant wines that combine power and finesse, Carneros is set in the rolling hills that straddle the southernmost parts of both Sonoma and Napa counties. The cooling winds from the abutting San Pablo Bay, combined with lots of midday California sunshine, create an ideal environment for producing wines with a perfect balance of crisp acidity and well-ripened fruit.
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. One simply needs to look to Bordeaux to understand Merlot's status as a noble variety. On the region’s Right Bank, it dominates in blends with Cabernet Franc, and on the Left Bank, 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.
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 and Cabernet Franc.