This is a guest post from Igor Sill, Napa vintner and winemaker
Merlot is a variety that has a great deal of its own signature nuance, its own way of expressing itself and I believe it resonates well while listening to George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue—a profoundly remarkable pairing of sensations. Our très Merlot and Rhapsody in Blue come together in perfect harmony, projecting you into a time of living in another world, thinking in a wondrous way while exerting influence over the hedonistic sensory attributes of an exceptional fine wine.
The accompanying rhythm and harmonious sounds seem to allow our très Merlot to come alive and “open up” fully with an undeniably profound sense of serenity, calm and tranquility while allowing our très Merlot to exhibit its unique expression of personality. The more the music matches the wine, the more we fully enjoy the tasting experience.
A growing body of scientific evidence, points to the fact that what people taste when evaluating a wine can be influenced by the music simultaneously playing. Essentially, background music accompanying a wine tasting experience can exert significant influence over the hedonic, the sensory, and the descriptive attributes of wine. David Williams, former deputy editor of The World of Fine Wine, suggested that we might soon find ‘music lists’ accompanying the wine lists in Michelin-starred restaurants, much like Yountville, CA’s famed The French Laundry. As in wine, art, music and life, the simplest of details can bear extraordinary results.
What makes our Atlas Peak’s terroir so unique for Merlot? Atlas Peak’s tremendous soil is first of all the rendezvous of winemakers in love with crafting exceptional wines. At 1,600 ft elevation, our almost flat plateau of deep subsoil of volcanic basalt, limestone and clay are high in iron-rich nutrients not found in any other Napa mountain vineyards, except Atlas Peak. This is an exclusive grape growing area with a concentration of boutique cult wine producers, huddled up in a small mountainous district. These volcanic soils are at least 2.5 million years old to start and our Merlot vines reflect the gnarled stumps that date back to the late 1980s—over 30 years old now. These old vines deliver textural richness and layered flavors that age-improve and it’s a difference you can actually taste. Young vines, though volume-productive and vigorous, deliver unpredictable quality from year to year. Most enologists agree that somewhere between 25 and 35 years of age grape production eases off and the economics of farming come into play. It’s much like the warm, deep rich tones of an old violin versus the brighter tone of new wood. We’re fortunate to be true vintners, focused on growing grapes to craft exceptional wines so managing our vineyard to a ripe old healthy age is a major priority. We have an intimate understanding of the connection between our terroir and specific grape vines that provide the very best expressions of these varietals.
In 2017, Mother Nature provided Atlas Peak with gorgeous spring weather followed by a perfectly dry summer, resulting in good yields and a mid October harvest. Among the most celebrated and revered wines from our vineyard is our 2017 très Merlot. Of course, the small size of our vineyard limits production with virtually all of our wines quickly being sold out. This is a spectacular wine and was officially released on March 16, 2020 with only 300 bottles produced. I cellared 12 bottles personally, so 288 bottles were then available, now only 261.
Our 2017 très Merlot shows lovely cherry-like aromas with hints of sibling Cabernet’s herbaceousness, and cream-tinged softer tannins over those found in Cabernet Sauvignon. I describe our 2017 très Merlot as magical, gentle, delicate with silky, lusty tannins, exuding a lush texture and sensual finish. It also tends to be drinkable at an earlier age.
Pair our très Merlot with goose, duck or game bird with plum sauce for dinner while listening to your favorite classical scores. C’est magnifique! We may make many compromises in life, but never with our wines. Some wines are worth remembering, a rare few are unforgettable: Sill Family Vineyards’ 2017 très Merlot.
Igor Sill, Vintner & Winemaker
Atlas Peak Mountain Winery – Sill Family Vineyards