Like many people, I enjoy my foods and wines seasonally. During the summer, I like my foods and wines light and zippy; I tend to prefer dry whites and rosés to reds. But, once "sweater weather" comes around again, so do the dry reds. By Christmas, I've usually gone all the way to port.
Harvest is in full swing, the late afternoon sunlight is slanted and gorgeous, and it's time for wonderful red wines. For our happy hour yesterday, Carl and I broke out a bottle of the 2017 Cadenza Vineyards Merlot. What a lovely wine!
Its backstory: In 2015, we planted three acres of Merlot on the very best part of our Brogue ("Cadenza") estate vineyard. This was the hillside which East Coast viticulture expert Lucie Morton called our "heritage vineyard" site, worthy of planting vines which would resonate for decades to come. On a frigid, snowy day in March of 2014, Carl had gotten bud-wood from friends Ed and Sarah at Black Ankle Vineyards in Maryland. The 181 clone vines were virus-free, and Carl also wanted them for the dark fruit character of the Merlot grapes. The canes were sent to Herrick Vines out in California, where they were grafted and planted. Then, in 2015, cuttings of the Merlot were shipped back to us for planting.
In the harvest of 2017, our estate Merlot were ready for their first picking (in what was called third "third leaf" autumn). 2017 was a good growing year and the crop came in at 1.5 tons per acre, about half of what we can expect from more mature vines. Carl was pleased with the long-anticipated Merlot, which he had thought would be put into a rosé but which instead was already ready to be in the mix of 2017 vintage dry reds.
The 2017 Merlot was fermented in tanks, rather than bins, to bring out its fruit character. Then it found its way into eight barrels, where it remained for twenty months, after which it was bottled, John Crouch-style, unfiltered and unfined. Some became our first estate Merlot, and the rest, which had been picked a little later, went into our 2017 Cadenza VIneyards Bridge and 2017 Cadenza Vineyards Cadenza. The varietal Merlot also includes 16% Cabernet Franc and a smidge of Cabernet Sauvignon.
As Carl says, this 2017 Merlot tastes of potential. It has a nice balance of concentration, tannins, acidity, and alcohol, and even high and low flavor notes. There's some definite power, although it is still too young to have a lot of complexity. In the making since that spring of 2014, the wine tastes fittingly like fruition, and is a harbinger of the many estate-grown Cadenza Merlots to come.
Cadenza Vineyards wines are available only at Allegro Winery in The Brogue or online at www.cadenzavineyards.com.