No less care is required in the winery, where the variety is often miscast as a “baby Cab.” If one pushes the extraction too hard, or overwhelms the wine with lots of new oak, it quickly gets anonymous, charmless and disjointed. On the other hand, if one is too gentle with the winemaking—the “baby Pinot” approach —then the resulting wine can feel narrow and undeveloped, having never been allowed enough room to reach its potential. However, when we get this Goldilocks variety just right, it is very hard to beat—red fruit flavors, plums and sage with an endless, supple texture. There is nothing quite like great Merlot. aromas enriched by the lush flavors that Merlot is famous for.
Frog’s Leap Winery was founded by John Williams and his wife at the time, Julie, and Larry Turley and his wife at the time, Jeannine. Larry, the founder of Turley Cellars and brother to well-known winemaker Helen Turley and John made their first barrel of wine from grapes they sourced from Stag’s Leaps Wine Cellars. From vineyards to the winery, the focus is on growing and making balanced food-friendly wines. The wines are all made with non-inoculated (indigenous) yeasts. These are wines showing alcohol restraint; as of our latest visit, none of the wines were above 14% alcohol – a rarity these days in Napa Valley.
Aging was for 18 months in French oak, 13% new. The resulting wine is rich and supple, with the low yields perhaps pushing the fruit a little darker and more brooding than usual. With air, the wine opens up into exuberant herbal-floral black cherries with plush tannins. Versatile with food, I have one request of you with this wine: either give it a couple of years in bottle, or a healthy decant to allow to aerate—the time spent will pay big dividends.
Pairs well with beef, lamb, and veal dishes.