Over the years I have become more and more aware of, and slightly cynical towards, Napa's propensity to overlook an exceptionally important varietal, Merlot. If you look at Napa's Merlot focus, there are only a few handfuls of wineries that take pride in producing outstanding Merlot. It has been some time since I have come across a truly exceptional bottle of Napa Merlot in the moderate to moderately-expensive price range (sometimes you have to bite the bullet and spend a little more then normal to get what you desire).
Back in the spring, while in Cleveland visiting family, my cousin Bob (from "A Cautionary Tale") graciously opened a number of bottles for me. During one of the evenings, he opened a bottle of Plumpjack Merlot. I remember it distinctly due to the name and surprising qualities it put forward. It was because of this experience that I jumped at the chance to include it on Junipers at the Wildflower Inn's wine list.
Last evening I had the chance to partake in another bottle of Plumpjack Merlot, this time with Jason Berkman, the Executive Chef of Legal Sea Foods in Burlington, MA. It again lived up to its reputation and delivered the best Merlot experience I have had in what seems like an eternity!
2006, Plumpjack, Merlot, Napa, California - $53
From the initial sniff, there was something unique going on in the glass. The aroma of black cherry is a typical characteristic of Merlot. However, this rich black cherry was very reminiscent of the nose of a terrific Zinfandel. The aroma is not where the similarities end. On the palate there was a nice harmony between the cherry and red currant that melded into a terrific Zinfandel-esque jamminess! This was followed by pleasant hints of spice leading to some muscular, yet ripe tannins. The finish was truly amazing, lingering for many minutes! This was everything that I love about Merlot.
To put it simply, this was a Barry Sanders type of wine: terrific balance, finesse, power, and grace. I guess that would be my unorthodox way of describing the 2006 Plumpjack Merlot.
Wine Spectator gave this a 91 pt rating which is very accurate. I upped them to a 92 due to the fact that this wine solidly realized its potential as great!