Merlot as It Should Be

Today’s Story: Enfield Wine Co.

Enfield Wine Co. is a relatively small family-owned and operated winery established by John Lockwood and Amy Seese in 2010. John started working in the wine industry in 2004 at Heron Lake Vineyard, followed by harvests at Littorai, Bodega Melipal in Argentina, and Failla Wines. John remained with Failla for five years managing and farming their Sonoma Coast and Russian River estate vineyards, ultimately starting Enfield as a small passion project. In 2013, John left Failla and devoted his time entirely to Enfield.

Enfield focuses primarily on terroir as a starting point, working with small independent growers across a range of regions to source their fruit. John and Amy purchase fruit from Antle Vineyard and Brosseau Vineyard in the Chalone AVA, Haynes Vineyard in Coombsville, Heron Lake Vineyard in Wild Horse Valley, Jesus & Patricia’s Vineyard in Fort Ross-Seaview, and Shake Ridge Vineyard in Amador County. From these sites they acquire a range of varieties including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo amongst others, all with varying vine age as well. John’s philosophy is to harvest his fruit for balance and ferment the wines naturally in order to showcase each unique terroir, eschewing a heavy-handed winemaking style. The wines are often fresh, lively, and mineral-driven, though John does enjoy exploring esoteric bottlings as well.

I previously wrote about the 2019 Jurassic Park Vineyard Chenin Blanc from Enfield.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Michael Black Vineyard Merlot

100% Merlot; 13.9% ABV

The 2018 Michael Black Vineyard Merlot is deep ruby in color with deep purple hues in the bowl of the glass. I decanted this for 2.5 hours due to its youth, which seemed perfect. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with a rather complex nose showcasing notes of black plum, blackberry, blueberry, violet, licorice, cigar box, clay, dried green herbs, baking spice, and cocoa. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity and the palate displays notes of blackberry, blueberry, black raspberry, black cherry, sweet tobacco, cedar spill, crushed rock, and eucalyptus. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) but fine-grained tannins, medium (+) alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $45. I think this offers rather strong value, and it’s a fantastic representation of the Merlot variety. This is very well-balanced, offering great depth and length as well all while being rather young. For those wine drinkers who don’t like Merlot, I’d suggest giving it another shot with this bottling.

Powerful Yet Beautiful Amador County Syrah

Today’s Story: Favia Wines

I seem to be in a trend right now of revisiting wineries I previously wrote about, with my last post on Favia being in December of last year for their 2013 Linea Sauvignon Blanc.

Favia was founded in 2003 by viticulturist Annie Favia and winemaker Andy Erickson, a husband and wife duo. Annie has experience working with John Kongsgaard and Cathy Corison, though her viticulturist expertise came working under David Abreu. Andy also has an extensive resume, which includes winemaking stints at Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Ovid, Harlan Estate, and Staglin amongst others. Andy also consults for Arietta, Mayacamas, and Dancing Hares Vineyard.

I had an opportunity to visit Favia for a tour and tasting last year, and it truly is a special experience. Annie and Andy live on the property in a home built in 1886 for the Carbone family, who are believed to be the first Italian immigrants to Napa Valley. Though modernized, Annie and Andy restored the home using historical documents alongside other structures on the property. A very cool feature, the cellar sits under the family home and Favia stores their wine right where they live. Strong believers in biodynamic practices and caring for the earth, Annie and Andy planted fruit trees, an olive orchard, and a garden (which we got to try a tomato from) in addition to the existing walnut orchard.

I highly suggest a visit to Favia if you take a trip to Napa Valley, as it’s a very small, unique tasting experience and is not too far from downtown Napa. In the meantime, check out their website here to browse their wines and see incredible pictures of the property.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Quarzo Syrah

100% Syrah; 14.8% ABV

The 2014 Quarzo Syrah is opaque deep purple in color, though nearly black with fairly heavy staining. After about 45 minutes in the decanter, this really opened up nicely and the nose showcases aromas of blackberry compote, rich black plum, blueberry, black licorice, dried tobacco leaf, rocky earth, slight baking spice, and mild oak. There is some slight heat there too, but it’s not incredibly noticeable and should hopefully fully integrate with another couple years in bottle. On the palate, this classic Syrah offers notes of inky blackberry, black plum, black cherry, anise, tobacco, damp earth, slate, green peppercorn, and chocolate. This is full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) but polished tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $70. I think this wine is very appropriately priced based on its quality and true to variety form. This is a classic California Syrah that is big and bold yet beautiful with great depth. Andy and Annie’s wines are always enjoyable, and I also highly recommend a visit to the winery next time you are in Napa Valley.

High Quality Sauvignon Blanc From Coombsville

Today’s Story: Realm Cellars

Realm Cellars is a winery I previously wrote about and will most likely write about again based on my experiences with their wines. You may recall my notes on the 2016 The Bard (one of my earliest posts) or my 2013 The Tempest if you’ve been around since early this year.

Realm was founded in 2002 with a focus on producing high-quality, limited production Bordeaux blend and single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Co-Founder Juan Mercado left his role as a hospital administrator in San Francisco to pursue working in the wine industry and, until recently, Realm sourced their fruit from historical, high-quality vineyards (like Dr. Crane, To Kalon, and Farella) rather than growing their own. Juan runs the winery with Managing Partner Scott Becker, they have an excellent winemaker in Benoit Touquette, and Michel Rolland consults.

One of my favorite aspects of Realm (more a “that’s really cool” kind of thing) is their inspiration from Shakespeare. For example, the title of my blog post on the 2016 The Bard starts the line “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm” from Shakespeare’s Richard II, a line noted on every bottle of Realm wine, on their corks, and highlighted on the label of The Bard. Realm’s Bordeaux blends include The Tempest, named for the violent storm and play thought to be one of Shakespeare’s last; Falstaff, named for the fat, vain, boastful, and cowardly knight present in four of Shakespeare’s plays for comic relief; and of course The Bard, named for Shakespeare himself. Each wine highlights a particular variety, ranging from Merlot to Cabernet Franc to Cabernet Sauvignon, respectively.

As far as their single vineyard wines go, Realm produces Farella (100% Cabernet Sauvignon), Houyi (100% Cabernet Sauvignon), Beckstoffer Dr. Crane (95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot), Beckstoffer To Kalon (100% Cabernet Sauvignon), Moonracer (Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend), and a white wine called Fidelio (Sauvignon Blanc). As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, recently Realm started producing wine from their own fruit which is where Moonracer comes in. This wine comes from their vineyard on Wappo Hill in the Stags Leap District and is named for the Wappo Native Americans who were known for bravery, strength, and athleticism. The Wappos often took part in (and are said to have won most) inter-tribal races during a full moon, hence the name Moonracer.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Fidelio Sauvignon Blanc

100% Sauvignon Blanc; 14.1% ABV

The 2019 Fidelio is transparent pale to medium straw yellow in color with greenish hues near the rim of the glass. This is a gorgeous wine, with aromas of tangerine, lime, white peach, pineapple, freshly cut grass, saline mineral, and hazelnut leaping from the glass. Upon tasting, the wine showcases notes of grapefruit, peach, lemon zest, mango, tropical citrus, crushed rock minerality, cream, and slight spice all wrapped up into a plush and sexy mouthfeel. This Sauvignon Blanc is medium-bodied with vibrant, mouthwatering acidity into a long, tantalizing finish.

Price: $70. While very hard for me to call this a good “value” wine because it is a very expensive California Sauvignon Blanc, I do think the price is justified here. This seems to be a wine Realm put a lot of thought and effort into (after consulting Andy Erickson on vineyard selection) and it shows. I would put this up there with some of my favorite California Sauvignon Blancs in a heartbeat.

Outstanding Napa Sauvignon Blanc

Today’s Story: Lail Vineyards

Lail Vineyards was established in 1995 by Robin Daniel Lail, though her family’s history of winemaking in Napa Valley spans much further back in time. Robin is the great-grandniece of Captain Gustave Niebaum who founded Inglenook Vineyards in 1879, and his dedication to quality not only yielded some of the greatest wines in Napa but in the world at the time. After Gustave passed away in 1908, Robin’s father John Daniel, Jr. picked up the reigns having grown up in the vineyards of Rutherford with an appreciation for the land and winemaking. During Prohibition, Inglenook stopped producing wine and sold their fruit to Beaulieu Vineyard who were selling sacramental wine to the church. Following Prohibition’s repeal, John Daniel, Jr. resumed winemaking at Inglenook and produced some of the greatest Cabernet Sauvignon throughout the world until he sold the property in 1964. Though there was a gap between the sale of Inglenook and beginning of Lail Vineyards, Robin never let her passion for winemaking wane. She worked alongside Robert Mondavi during the 1970s who helped mentor her and tell her of her family’s significance in the Napa Valley, and she co-founded Dominus with Christian Moueix in the early 1980s and Merryvale with Bill Harlan in the late 1980s and early 1990s. When Robin decided to take her passion and dedication to her family’s history further, she and her husband Jon established Lail Vineyards and brought along renowned winemaker Philippe Melka.

Today Lail Vineyards consists of two estate vineyards, Totem and Mole Hill. The Totem vineyard is 2.5 acres and was part of the original Inglenook Vineyards in Yountville. In 2006 and 2007, the Merlot planted in Totem was t-budded to Sauvignon Blanc. The Mole Hill vineyard, on the other hand, is 3 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon between 1600-1700 feet in elevation on Howell Mountain.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Blueprint Sauvignon Blanc

100% Sauvignon Blanc; 14.3% ABV

The 2018 Blueprint Sauvignon Blanc is completely transparent medium straw/yellow in color with water white variation. On the beautifully delicate nose I get aromas of lemon and lime zest, pineapple, mango, honeysuckle, freshly cut grass, saline mineral, and dried vanilla. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of apricot, grapefruit, peach, honeydew melon, white florals, dried herbs, white pepper, and mineral. This is medium-bodied with high acidity and a lush, well-rounded mouthfeel into a crisp and refreshing finish. 1,342 cases produced.

Price: $40 from winery (I paid $35 retail). This is an outstanding Sauvignon Blanc that certainly punches above its price-point. The depth, complexity, and quality of fruit here makes this a necessity to try and I see this drinking even better over the coming five years. Pair with Dover sole, oysters, or pesto chicken.

Delicious Sauvignon Blanc from Two Rockstars

Today’s Story: Favia Wines

Favia was founded in 2003 by viticulturist Annie Favia and winemaker Andy Erickson, a husband and wife duo. Annie has experience working with John Kongsgaard and Cathy Corison, though her viticulturist expertise came working under David Abreu. Andy also has an extensive resume, which includes winemaking stints at Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Ovid, Harlan Estate, and Staglin amongst others. Andy also consults for Arietta, Mayacamas, and Dancing Hares Vineyard.

I had an opportunity to visit Favia for a tour and tasting back in September, and it truly is a special experience. Annie and Andy live on the property in a home built in 1886 for the Carbone family, who are believed to be the first Italian immigrants to Napa Valley. Though modernized, Annie and Andy restored the home using historical documents alongside other structures on the property. A very cool feature, the cellar sits under the family home and Favia stores their wine right where they live. Strong believers in biodynamic practices and caring for the earth, Annie and Andy planted fruit trees, an olive orchard, and a garden (which we got to try a tomato from) in addition to the existing walnut orchard.

I highly suggest a visit to Favia if you take a trip to Napa Valley, as it’s a very small, unique tasting experience and is not too far from downtown Napa. In the meantime, check out their website here to browse their wines and see incredible pictures of the property.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Linea Sauvignon Blanc

Unfortunately I cannot find the blend percentages for this wine, though other vintages have been both 100% Sauvignon Blanc or a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Musquet. 14.2% ABV

The 2013 Linea is pale straw yellow in color and almost completely transparent. The nose on this is very lovely and delicate with aromas of apricot, tangerine, melon, stone fruit, honeysuckle, and white florals (particularly wildflowers). Once in the mouth, I get notes of pear, apricot, white peach, melon, pineapple, lemon zest, and saline minerality. This wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity and a medium (+) length finish that is both crisp and refreshing.

Price: $85. This is a bit high for Sauvignon Blanc, and even though this bottle isn’t easy to come by I’d be more comfortable paying closer to $60. Pair this with oysters, sole, green vegetables, or goat cheese.