2016 Heritage Merlot
92 pts - Wine Advocate
Winegrowing and farming are challenging, and always have been. The rewards though continue to propel us forward. In the early years of America’s founding, President Thomas Jefferson planted grapes at Monticello and cultivated his vineyard. Today, the Jefferson Merlot Clone is revered for its strength, ability to adapt to its surroundings, and spice. Our oldest Merlot blocks on the Ranch’s north side are planted to this clone and it is this connection to our past that we honor with the name Heritage. The area where the grapes are sourced is a hilly, upper slope with heavy clay soil. This steep, shallow soiled terrain limits vine vigor and gives us our lowest yields on the ranch. But the fruit produced has intense flavor and tannin and typically requires an extra year of aging prior to release.
The 2016 Heritage offers ample fruit on the nose and with each sip blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and baked strawberries jump out of the glass. On the palate, a combination of dark and milk chocolate, vanilla and crème caramel with toasted notes. Fresh, well-framed acid, and chewy tannins resolve into a long caramel finish. This powerhouse of a wine shows that Merlot in its truest form can be elegant, powerful, refined and expressive.
The 2016 vintage began with a warm spring and some late rains that gave us an early budbreak and enough water to provide good early season vine growth despite being in the tail end of a severe drought. June and July were warmer than usual, but when we approached the key ripening months of August and September, the weather cooled significantly, allowing a slow approach to maturity. These conditions favor good fruit development without excessively high alcohol. Exactly the kind of wine we love to make.