Tortoise Creek Merlot 2011
Tortoise Creek was created by Mel and Janie master, a British couple who have lived most of their lives in the wine business in both France and California. “Tortoise Creek” comes from the translation of the name of the couple's home in Provence named "Le Riseau de Tortue" after the Tortoises who flourished in the creek alongside their vineyard.
The concept with Tortoise Creek is to work with small farmers in California who focus on sustainable farming. Tortoise Creek is handcrafted, small-batch wines selected and blended from growers who understand this philosophy. In 2008, Mel and Janie Master joined forces with the Sager family who own the national importing company, Winesellers, Ltd., and together they have extended the range to consists of top quality Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. They are all blended to create the best possible representation of the varietal and offer remarkable value.
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.