2015 Martin Ray Stags Leap Merlot
Sourced from the same vineyard on an adjacent block to our Reserve Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, the volcanic alluvial soil that makes up the foothills of the Vaca Mountains provides the same ideal growing conditions to produce an outstanding Merlot. The exposure of the vineyard creates a dramatic warming and cooling effect during the summer months, which in turn, stresses the vines causing them to produce small, dense clusters intense in color and flavor.
The culmination of factors from another drought year in California surprised us with another wonderful vintage. An unseasonably dry and warm winter, which led to an early spring, forced the vines into bud break during peak frost season. However, the spring weather stayed mild during fruit set and led into a relatively warm summer which hastened ripening to unprecedented early harvest dates. Although the crop, overall, was lighter (and much, much earlier), than we've seen in several years, the outstanding quality of the fruit and resulting wines cannot be understated.
Hand-picked, sorted, and destemmed into small open-top fermenters, our Merlot is coldsoaked for four days, then fermented at warm temperatures. The cap is managed by gentle pumpovers for the purpose of preventing the over-extraction of tannins, and maintaining a rich body and fruit-forward palate. After reaching dryness, the wine is allowed extended maceration for up to 28 days with minimal disturbance. It is then gently basket pressed to 55% new French oak, with a very small portion of American oak for nuance, where it is aged for 16 months.
True to its varietal and appellation, this vintage of Merlot is blue fruit driven, combined with aromas of wild blueberry, tart mulberry, and a notes of juniper. Subtle elderflower gives way to rich dark currant, baked plum, and a touch of pepper. Although full-bodied and well structured, its tannins are present, but well integrated. This wine is sure to be loved by Merlot fans, but is refined enough to appeal to any red wine drinker.