Wente Sandstone Merlot 2015
Blend: 85% Merlot, 8% Petite Sirah, 4% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Well-drained sandstone soils on an estate hillside site lend their name to this aromatic red. Merlot (85%) is co-fermented separately with Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon and then aged for 24 months in neutral French and Eastern European oak barrels. The aromas are remarkable: Dark cherry, sweet tobacco, cocoa, and nutmeg are thoroughly engaging. Unique flavors of spiced pumpkin, persimmon, and ripe strawberry lead to earth tones. Bright acidity and round tannins make this a pleasurable sipper.
Wente Vineyards is the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery, founded in 1883. Today, the winery maintains its leadership role in California winegrowing under ownership and management by the fourth and fifth generations of the Wente family. Blending traditional and innovative winemaking practices, the winery draws from nearly 3,000 acres of certified sustainably farmed vineyards to create an outstanding portfolio of estate grown wines. Located just East of San Francisco in the historic Livermore Valley, Wente Vineyards is recognized as one of California’s premier wine country destinations featuring wine tasting, The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, summer concert performances, and a Greg Norman designed golf course.
Today, Fifth Generation Winemaker Karl D. Wente carries on the family winemaking tradition. The Estate Grown wines are named after the unique growing conditions of the vineyards in which they are sourced. The Single Vineyard wines are named for the specific blocks in the premier estate vineyards located in the Livermore Valley and Arroyo Seco, Monterey regions.
A warm sub-appellation of the greater San Francisco Bay AVA (American Viticultural Area), Livermore Valley mainly hides behind the shielding effects of the bay’s eastern hills. However, late afternoon winds cool down summer nights as daytime heat rises from the Central Valley in the east, pulling the cold, foggy, bay air inland. This cooler evening air permeates the Livermore Valley's foothills, making this an ideal environment for the development of phenolic ripeness and concentration in its wine grapes.
The Livermore Valley is one of California's oldest wine regions and has played a crucial role in shaping California's wine industry. Spanish missionaries planted the first wine grapes in the Livermore Valley in the 1760s. Then in the mid 1800s, a man named Robert Livermore planted the area’s first commercial vineyards. Winemaker pioneer C. H. Wente arrived a few years later; today the Wente Chardonnay clone is the source of a majority of California Chardonnay. Furthermore, James Concannon and the Wetmore brothers recognized the virtues of the area’s Bordeaux-like gravel soils and dedicated themselves to making high quality wine from Bordeaux varieties. Today the area is also known for high quality Petite Sirah.
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.