It was early September in 2002 when Carl got an unexpected call from Jan Waltz of Waltz Vineyards: Can I bring you your Merlot? Tonight? The reason this was so unexpected was because this variety, in a normal year, wouldn't be picked until early October. The 2002 growing season was a hot one, and these young vines (then in 4th leaf) had gained sugar quickly. During the second week of September they were measuring 24.8 Brix, which would ferment to 13.8% alcohol. In a normal year, young-vine Merlot would be picked at 22 or 23 Brix. This was not a normal year.
Carl got the grapes. In mid-2003, tasting the wine in barrels, he was very aware of the wine's potential. The 3.25 barrels of 2002 Reserve Merlot were bottled in 2004. The wine is a blend of 11% Cabernet Franc and 89% of that luscious Waltz Merlot.
We released the wine in August of 2004 at $25 per bottle. The labels (which I designed and now make me cringe a bit) were hand-printed. We had about 80 cases of the wine. It started to sell so quickly that we raised the price to $35 per bottle. And, just like that, it sold out. Gone.
Except...for the 2002 Reserve Merlot reserved for the Allegro wine library. Every once in a while Carl turns a regular day into a special day by opening a special wine. Recently, we had one of those days, popping the cork on this now-18-year-old wine.
Wow. This wine still holds its fruit core: What used to be a 100% raspberry quality has darkened a bit, but it still super-present. Time has added some bottle bouquet and earthiness, accompanying the wine's notes of cocoa and coffee. The wine has nice structure and tannins and is a perfect fit for an American palate: likeable, complex, still fruit-forward. Really outstanding.
This wine is the same age as our son Dylan. Reflecting on this, Carl noted that it "makes me feel old, but not in a bad way." It definitely gives some perspective, to know that our son and this wine have both been alive for 18 years, developing and changing. (Carl notes that Dylan is still more complex than the wine.)
So cheers to being able to enjoy some perspective, and to be able to capture and share the very best grapes from the very best vintages. Thanks to the magic of wine, we can literally taste time.