A part of the “family”, so to speak, since 1990, Merlot holds a special place in the heart of Frog’s Leap winery: the majority of the fruit comes from the estate vineyard that surrounds the winery and its historic red barn. Situated in the eastern part of Rutherford, this vineyard is perfectly suited to growing Merlot thanks to its rich clay-loam soils. Over the years, the winery has observed that Merlot vines like “cool feet and a warm body”. Clay soils hold more moisture, keeping the root zone cool, while the setting sun over the Mayacamas gives the vines an extra hour of warmth in the evening. Sustainable dry-farming practices force the roots to push deep in search of the water and nutrients they need.
It’s that balance between an ideal growing environment and a measure of stress that reveal complex aromas and flavours in Frog’s Leap’s wines. There are some years when Merlot is delightful and complete on its own, and there are other years that the wine is simply more balanced and powerful with the aid of either or both of its cousins: Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. You can imagine the lively discussions amongst the Frog’s Leap winemaking team each year as they confront the possibilities of a new vintage of Merlot. The goal is simple: preserve the intense and beautiful red fruit character of Merlot while building the structure of the wine with Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc.
In particularly fine years, the Merlot’s fruit aromas are intense enough to allow substantial additions of a Cabernet cousin that will deepen the flavours and add significantly to its age-worthiness. Such is the 2016 Merlot, which is composed of nearly 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. With a beautiful dark raspberry aroma and silken yet powerful flavours, this without question is a wine for the cellar.