Marilyn Merlot released their first vintage in 1985. However, the owners Bob & Donna Holder started making home wine in 1981 and as good ideas often happen, was over a glass of wine! They came upon this name after drinking some of their own Merlot at dinner one evening. Bob was a CPA for a number of years and worked with many Napa wineries, and as a result had winemaking and vineyard connections. This wine has been a phenomenal success and is now a true collector’s wine. Some of their earliest vintages are often fetching up to several thousand dollars per bottle. Each vintage has a different image of Marilyn Monroe on the label. Marilyn Merlot was their first wine although today they make several different wines. The ultimate collector within a collector’s wine is the Velvet Collection series.
The first vintage dates from 2002 and they will stop making this wine in 2012. A set of 10 very sexy sultry nude photos of Marilyn were taken in 1949 and each vintage has one of these photos on the label. We have seen some interesting labels during our Napa winery odyssey but this one takes the cake. Each label is a nude photo of Marilyn (covered appropriately for the label), and has what they call a “peel and peak” protective plastic layer which when removed reveals the entire un-covered photo! Each of these wines is only available in 1.5 liters and comes in its own special box and package. This is collector wine at its best.
The release date of all wines is always June 1st – Marilyn’s birthday and each vintage usually sells out rather quickly. Their Norma Jean wines are very affordably priced and are marketed as “A Young Merlot” and features photos of a young Norma Jean before she took the name Marilyn Monroe. This is the only wine to feature non Napa fruit (the vineyard source is near the historic town of French Camp in California’s central valley). All other fruit is sourced from high end vineyards near the towns of Rutherford & Yountville including from the Beckstoffer Vineyards. We tried the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon which was among some of the older “current” releases that we have tried. Extra age is not a bad thing when it comes to wine! There are pleasant toasty characteristics on the nose which continues to the palate with nice fruit, hints of chocolate and a smoky intense long finish. As with most of their other current releases, this wine is priced quite affordably.
If you want to see the best vertical (each year’s wine) display of Marilyn Merlot wines, visit Traverso’s in Santa Rosa (about 50 minutes from the Napa Valley). All the wines for the Marilyn Merlot label are made at the famed Napa Wine Co along Highway 29. You can even taste these at Napa Wine Co’s Cult Tasting room which is open to the public by walk-in. Visit: www.marilynwines.com