The Merlot Lovers Tour of Napa Valley
Though Cab may reign supreme in Napa these days, Merlot has
always been a member of the royal family—though somewhat in exile
these days. But tastes are a fickle thing, and those who know
the true beauty of a silky, carefully crafted Merlot aren't slaves
to fashion, or the whims of Hollywood.
For those who remain true
to great Napa Merlots, this is a wonderful time to taste the
grape that steadfastly refuses to slink away quietly while others
have their moment in the sun. In fact, 2002, according to published
reports was one of the best years ever for Napa Merlot, with
several top wines receiving stellar scores and launching a quiet
renaissance of this noble grape.
Take a special varietal-inspired
tour of Napa's best Merlot producers, located primarily along
the Silverado Trail, but dipping into Rutherford, as well.
Starting in Napa, head North on the Silverado Trail…
You'll arrive first at Clos Du Val: At the furthest Southern
end of the Silverado Trail, Clos Du Val has struggled for identity
in recent years, but is beginning to pull out of its slump.
Merlot has long been a strong contender for the winery that put
its Cabs up against the French in the now-famous 1976 Paris tasting.
Continuing North on the Silverado Trail you will find: Pine
Ridge (near Yountville): Another strong Cabernet house
with impressive Merlots to boot.
Duckhorn (north of St. Helena): Using estate lots and various
other Napa Valley grapes, Duckhorn's deep and majestic Merlot
sets itself squarely on the throne. The relaxed atmosphere of
Duckhorn's tasting room makes for an easy-going experience.
Cuvaison (south of Calistoga): This ripe, concentrated Merlot
shows the breadth of Cuvaison's winemaking abilities.
Still heading north on the Silverado Trail, turn left on Dunaweal
Lane. You'll end up first at Clos
Pegase: The architecture
alone is worth a stop, but this Calistoga winery has long
been known for structured Merlots with dark, leathery qualities.
The grapes come from the cooler Carneros vineyards.
Continue on Dunaweal to Sterling: Ride the tram to the top
for a spectacular tasting. Sterling has a variety of Merlots,
most notably the Reserve, with notes of plum jam and spice.
Sterling's Merlot in May event is a boon for Merlot lovers
Twomey: Using a traditional Bordeaux method of
winemaking, Twomey's Merlots strive for balance and silkiness
found in wines like Chateau Petrus. Leaving Twomey, turn left
onto Highway 29, and continue south into St. Helena… Whitehall
Lane Winery: Impressive Merlot at an equally impressive price.
One of the valley's best values.
Continue a short distance
south on Highway 29. Turn right on Manley Lane. Swanson: Another
Merlot advocate, Swanson's sit-down tastings are not-to-be-missed.
Available by appointment only, the intimate gatherings
feature some of the winery's impressive Merlot offerings.
Merlot in May
Sterling Vineyards has an annual Merlot gathering each may, inviting dozens of
wineries to pour their best Merlots. Join them this year on May 12, when hundreds
of wines will be poured. The low-key event also features music and food to pair
with this equally laid-back grape. Click
Here for more information