Tasting No. 216 – December 9, 2109 – Merlot Blends

Club del Vino


Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

One of the World’s Most Famous Merlots

Tasting Overview  

The last CV tasting dedicated to Merlot was in June  of 2017.  Since the famous 2009 movie Sideways in which the lead character, a Pinot Noir fan, adamantly refuses to drink Merlot, this grape has become to be seen mainly as a support variety in blends. A 2009 study by Sonoma State University found that Sideways slowed the growth in Merlot sales volume and caused its price to fall, but the film’s main effect on the wine industry was a rise in the sales volume and price of Pinot Noir and in overall wine consumption. However, not all this was bad because Merlot had been until then massively planted and there was  a glut of Merlot wine not necessarily of good quality. This was not the case in Bordeaux where growers and  wine makers stuck to their centuries-old blending practices with Merlot  featuring prominently, particularly on the right banks of the Gironde and Dordogne rivers (i.e. the prestigious Saint Emilion , Pomerol. etc. )

The  main objective of this tasting is to revisit the Merlot grapes from Bordeaux and three USA famous producing regions, namely Washington Sate, Napa Valley, and Virginia.

Type of Tasting: Blind

Wines presenters: Juan Luis Colaiacovo

These are the wines:

  1. Cava Juvé y Camps Reserva de la Familia Brut, Penedés, Spain
  2. 2016 Chateau Fleur Cardinale , Grand Cru Classe. Saint Emilion, Bordeaux
  3. 2015 Octagon . Barboursville Vineyards, Virginia, USA.
  4. 2017 Mystique . Sheridan Vineyard. Yakima Valley. Washington State, USA.
  5. 2015 Monticello Vineyards, Corley Family, Oak Knoll, Napa Valley, California

This is the menu:

  1. Cheese plate
  2. Arugula, lettuce and walnuts salad
  3. Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken
  4. Grilled stake in pepper sauce with roasted potatoes and vegetables
  5. Dessert/Coffee

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Juan Luis Colaiacovo,  Ruth Connolly, Jaime Estupiñán, Alberto, Martha Kipnis (guest), Lucía Redwood, Alfonso Sanchez, Ricardo Santiago, Pedro Turina, German Zincke

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources)

Cava Juvé y Camps Reserva de la Familia Brut, Pendés, Spain

The Wine: This cava is a Brut Nature made with free-run juice from grapes grown on our Espiells (Can Rius), La Cuscona and Mediona estates. It has a typically pale golden color, with a rich, elegant nose that begins with ripe white fruit and moves towards the notes that come from ageing: baked goods, toasted bread, spices. On the palate it is extremely seductive, with a fresh, pleasant texture and long finish that is once again reminiscent of white fruit. Thirty six months sur lie on average.

Pale gold in color, this Cava has aromas of mature white peach, toasted bread and green tea with hints of lemon citrus and apricots. Equally rich and broad on the palate, these flavors continue to unfold on the palate. Its fresh profile makes it a perfect match for paté, seafood, tapas, paellas, grilled poultry or cured meats. Reserva de la Familia is the flagship cuvée of the Juvé y Camps estate winery. In the beginning days of their wine making, the Juvé y Camps family had their own reserve of this Cava, and it is still the only Brut Nature that they make. Made from the free run juice of traditional varieties Macabeo, Xarel.lo and Parellada and a touch of Chardonnay, this is the Cava of choice of Spain’s royal family, and it is regularly served at all official banquets.

Experts Ratings: WE: 86; ST: 87

The Winery: Harmony of land, light, water. Mediterranean air on the vines. Respect for nature. Environmental balance, biodiversity and meticulous winemaking. The 271 hectares of carefully cultivated vineyards owned by Juvé & Camps are located in the most suited areas to each variety of grape, ensuing the best quality cava and wine. Pure expression of the terroir. It all began around 200 years ago when Joan Juvé Mir, a curious, meticulous, forward-thinking winemaker, laid the groundwork for the company. Later, his son Antoni Juvé Escaiola took over the vineyards, successfully tackling the horrible scourge of phylloxera. Joan Juvé Baqués, son of Antoni Juvé Escaiola and husband of Teresa Camps Ferrer, set up the underground facilities in the family home (casa pairal).

Juvé & Camps is a family-owned winery located in San Sadurní d’Anoia, a small town in the northeastern Penedès region near Barcelona. Founded in 1921 by Joan Juvé Baqués and his wife Teresa Camps Farré, the winery’s three-generation history has resulted in an international reputation for producing top-quality Cava. Juvé & Camps comprises 2700 acres of vineyards. Those acres are divided into three properties where native varieties Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo are grown. From the beginning, the winery’s philosophy has been to use only traditional, high-quality winemaking practices. Its Cava is made in the método tradicional, as is Champagne, meaning it undergoes a secondary, in-bottle fermentation prompted by the addition of yeast and sugar. The wines are often aged in bottle for 18 months or more.

Read more here: https://www.juveycamps.com/en/

2016 Chateau Fleur Cardinale , Grand Cru Classe, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux

The Wine: Winemaker Notes:This wine displays a deep, dense-coloured hue, while on the nose there are powerful ripe fruit aromas mingling with floral notes. Feminine in style, the wines have a seductive, rich mouth-feel, underpinned by elegant, silky tannins. The finish is long and harmonious, promising very long ageing potential in bottle. Blend: 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.

RP: The 2016 Fleur Cardinale is medium to deep garnet-purple colored and bursts from the glass with crushed blackberries, mulberries and chocolate-covered cherries with hints of spice cake, dried herbs and fragrant soil. The palate is medium to full-bodied and wonderfully elegant with soft, rounded tannins and a great backbone of freshness, finishing perfumed.

Decanter: The grapes are sourced from a lovely vineyard owned by the Decoster family, located on cooler soils to the east of the appellation, where the late harvest of 2016, through to 25 October, is not unusual. There’s plenty to enjoy here, with bitter chocolate, fresh menthol notes and rich, tight tannins. It has well expressed cassis and blackberry flavours and a silky texture. Jean-Philippe Fort consulted, with the wine aged in 100% new oak barrels after vinification in stainless steel. Bottled unfiltered. 35hl/ha yield.

Experts Ratings: JS:94; RP:93; WS:92; D:92; WE:92

The Winery:  (from Wine.com) The estate was bought in 2001 by Florence and Dominique Decoster, and it has benefited form major investments which have made Chateau Fleur Cardinale one of the top names of the appellation. It is located to the east of the village of Saint-Émilion, on one of the high points of the appellation and it extends over 20 hectares. The vineyard is planted in a clay-limestone soil in the middle of the plateau on a pleasant late producing terroir. The vines are mainly merlot (70%) and then a balance of 15% cabernet sauvignon and 15% cabernet franc. With it’s great value for money, and showing great consistancy in it’s quality, Chateau Fleur Cardinale was promoted to “Saint-Emilion Grand cru classé” in 2006.

Read more at: https://fleurcardinale.com/en/

2015 Octagon . Barboursville Vineyards, Virginia, USA

The Wine: Winemaker Notes: Nearly opaque bright deep violet color; bright, roasted aromas and flavors of baked berries, coffee beans, and dark chocolate with an even, lively, dryish body; warming, complex marinated cherries and beets, nut skins, with chewy, dusty tannins and moderate oak. Very dry, old-world style.

RP: The 2015 Octagon, the latest release, is 50% Merlot, with 30% Petit Verdot and 20% Cabernet Franc, aged for 12 months in 40% new French oak. It comes in at 13.5% alcohol. Dried herbs and a touch of cream open this up. It’s hard to see right now how it achieves the grandeur of the 2007 oldie this issue, but the truth is that the big wines here are often closed and not all they can be when young. There is also a touch of smoke, maybe a bit of reduction. That should blow off with time. The structure is fine, with a tight finish, while the nose is mostly herbs and that hint of smoke. The fruit here needs to become more expressive, which will require time. It will show a lot better around 2023. They have proven that they age very well, so there will be no problem holding this. There is no rush.

WE: This wine is full of fig, elderberry syrup and cooked black plum aromas and flavors, with cedar and dried herb tones adding complexity. The tannins are full and drying in feel but will settle with time in the cellar. A long, smooth finish brings a bit of black pepper spice.

Experts Ratings: JS: 93: RP: 90; WE: 89

The Winery:  (From: Wine Searcher) Monticello is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in the center of Virginia’s hilly Piedmont region.  he AVA is located around Charlottesville, just east of the more-substantial Shenandoah Valley. Covering four counties and some 800,000 acres (320,000ha), Monticello is one of Virginia’s more-premium wine regions.

Monticello’s climate is defined by its warm summers and the wind protection offered by the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian range. However, cold winters present a threat – as they do elsewhere in Virginia – with fatal vine-freeze affecting local vineyards. To lessen the risks posed by spring frosts, and to make the most of the sunny, south-easterly exposure offered by the mountain slopes, many vignerons have selected sites at altitudes of 800ft (245m) and above.

The threat of fungal diseases caused by relatively high humidity means that growers have to employ careful vineyard techniques to make the most of Monticello’s terroir. Trellising, canopy management and cultivar selection are all important considerations in the vineyards of Monticello. There is a wide array of soils in the area, ranging from silty loams to heavier clay-based soils.

Barboursville Vineyards are situated on the broad, rolling plateau and foothills of the Southwest Mountains in the Virginia Piedmont, running parallel with the Blue Ridge to the west, our 900 acres occupy soils of varying mixes of clay and alluvial calcareous deposits, with sloping exposures of even greater variety. In the temperate mid-Atlantic weather of our growing region, this estate presents the viticulturist with a dynamic mosaic of growing conditions. Some years favor one planting site for a given varietal, such as Cabernet Franc, and other years favor another in the same varietal.

Read more at:https://www.bbvwine.com/

2017 Mystique . Sheridan Vineyard. Yakima Valley. Washington State, USA

The Wine: Jeb Dunnuck-Yakima Valley, WA – “…Its deep ruby color is followed by a spicy, savory, herbal, yet textured and full-bodied red that has loads of red and black fruits, some spicy oak, and a clean, dry finish. It’s already impossible to resist yet should keep for 7-8 years”

Expert Rating: Jeb Dunnuck: 93

The Winery: In 1996, Scott found 76 acres of land located on a hilltop in the Yakima Valley. At that moment, he realized that his 17-year career in finance was coming to an end. The following year, he started the vineyard by planting ten acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah grapes. Sheridan Vineyard’s first harvest was in 2000. That year, Scott bottled a Syrah and a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc now known as L’Orage. Today, with the property fully planted, Scott continues to focus on sustainable farming practices and keeping yields low as the vineyard matures. All of this is driven by his passion to create wines of richness while maintaining a sense of beauty and balance.

Read more at: https://www.sheridanvineyard.com/

2015 Monticello Vineyards, Corley Family, Oak Knoll, Napa Valley, California

The Wine: This wine offers bright red cherry and raspberry aromas, accompanied by dried floral tones intertwined with hints of mocha, vanilla, and cola. On the palate, I find the wine supple and invigorating with a wonderful round midpalate that is well-balanced on a beam of acidity. The framework of gentle tannins leads into a lingering finish that is both full and bright. 96% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc.

2014 was another wonderful wine-growing season in Napa Valley. A true classic. A wet February gave way to a characteristically dry spring. Except for slight heat spikes in June and then again in July, the weather remained consistent throughout the growing season. The accumulation of heat during the summer led to a slightly early harvest. The sunny weather through to October allowed the grapes to develop more phenolic and flavor maturities with sugar levels remaining steady. The 2014 vintage repeated many of the blessings that came in the 2012 and 2013 vintages, from the deeply colored and velvety grape skins and brown seeds, to fully ripened grape tannins, and a wonderful natural balance of brix and acidity. Aged 26 months in 50% new French oak barrels.

Expert Ratings: WS: 90; WE: 90

The Winery: Kevin Corley presides as both President of the company, as well as our dedicated winegrower. We have grown from humble beginnings to now farming five vineyards in the Napa Valley. Our Monticello Estate and Knollwood Vineyard in the Oak Knoll District is planted to Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah varietals. Our State Lane Vineyard in Yountville, Tietjen Vineyard on Niebaum Lane in Rutherford and Yewell Vineyard on Ehlers Lane in St. Helena are each planted to premium Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Jay Corley came to Napa Valley in 1969, seeking land to plant an estate vineyard. Over forty years later, Corley Family Napa Valley wines is proudly family-owned and operated by Jay’s sons, Kevin, Chris and Stephen Corley. We are a small winery producing approximately 15,000 cases of wine annually and have come to be known as one of the best wineries in Napa, operating under our MONTICELLO VINEYARDS and CORLEY wine brands.

Read more at: https://www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/

CV Members Rating

View full evaluation here: 216 Summary of Tasting Scores

Best Rated Wine: 2016 Chateau Fleur Cardinale , Grand Cru Classe. Saint Emilion, Bordeaux

Best Buy: 2016 Chateau Fleur Cardinale , Grand Cru Classe. Saint Emilion, Bordeaux

Technical Notes 

To read more about Merlot visit this NOTE prepared by Jairo Sanchez



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