Demonstrating many similarities to the 1997 vintage, the 2004 growing season began with normal rainfall followed by an early, pleasantly warm Spring marked by timely budbreak and bloom. The first signs of vearaison appeared several weekes ahead of schedule in the first few days of July. Cooler summer temperatures allowed for steady, even ripening of the moderately sized crop. A few days of hot windy weather in August lent a final touch of richness and concentration to the fruit.
Our family vineyard is located on 40 acres of Napa Valley floor just north of St. Helena on the Silverado Trail. It has well-drained, sandy, alluvial soils and is characterized by its ability to produce complex wines with well-defined fruit flavors, gentle acids and naturally balanced tannins. The fruit from this small section of vineyard is largely devoted to blending into our Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon wines with any excess reserved for a small production, varietal Merlot wine.
The grapes were harvested in early October where they were promptly de-stemmed but not crushed, allowing increased control over tannin extraction by minimizing the possibility of broken skins and split seeds. After a 48-hour cold soak to extract color and flavor, the grapes were fermented for 10 days, with pump-overs occurring twice daily. The free-run was transferred to 100% French oak barrels where it underwent malolactic fermentation, and barrel aged for 20 months.
Our 2004 Napa Valley Merlot is a showcase of classic, well-developed red fruit characters. Vivid fragrances of cherry, raspberry and red plum are followed by suggestions of vanilla-scented oak, milk chocolate and brown sugar. Flavors of strawberry, cherry and cassis lead to a long, velvety cedar and baking spice flecked finish. Incorporating a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon fattens the texture and lends mouth-filling tannins. A small addition of Malbec enhances the parade of varietal red fruit characters on the tongue. Recommended drinking time is three to four years from the vintage, with about one hour of breathing prior to drinking. Maximum suggested aging is six to eight years from the vintage.
Blend: 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec
Barrel Aging: 20 months, 33% new barrels, 100% French oak