is owned and operated by Dave Cofran and his business partner John Johnson. Incidentally this was the 450th Napa winery that we visited during our extensive wine odyssey. Dave has a long history in the wine industry dating back over 40 years. He is a graduate of UC Davis during the mid 1960′s from a class that produced industry pioneer winemakers for Napa including Justin Meyer (Silver Oak Cellars), Rick Forman (Forman Vineyards) and Nils Venge. Dave worked at Silver Oak Cellars for almost 20 years and was their Chief Operating Officer. Dave & John have known each other for many years and purchased their first vineyard together in 1979. They purchased what would be the source vineyard for their Strata wine in 1995. In all these years they never made commercial wine together. This all changed in 2001 with the release of their first vintage. Dave was getting close to retirement from Silver Oak Cellars and was looking for something “smaller” to keep him in the wine business. People’s conceptions of retirement may be golf and cutting back on the work load but with Strata and his involvement & ownership in another winery called Highlands, Dave is a busy guy in his “retirement” years.
Merlot has been planted in what is now the Oak Knoll appellation for a number of years and more and more this appellation is becoming known for this varietal. The specific soils, lighter rainfalls, and cooler temperatures compared to the rest of the Napa area (although slightly warmer than the Carneros district) make this a very good Merlot growing district. Strata is a name that appropriately describes the several vineyard planted acres. This soil is very loamy for the first 2 feet which then turns into old rounded river cobble and below that is a thick layer of clay. In part, this type of soil stratification allows for just enough stress on the vines to ensure rich concentrated fruit.
Look for the ‘sandstone layer’ which forms the label on their bottles. Every year this label changes slightly. Dave has a cut sandstone coaster collection and each year chooses a different one which forms the final label! Dave is the winemaker – it is made at a nearby winery and he handles the majority of the actual vineyard management. Strata makes the single vineyard Merlot each year and as of press time produces under a thousand cases. We tried the 2003 Merlot. It has an elegant slightly spicy nose, (perhaps some cinnamon) not quite revealing the complexity of flavor to follow on the palate. The palate is medium to full bodied. The mouth feel is smooth and rounded, full of ripe fruit including plum, cherry and notes of chocolate. Exotic finishes and a touch of vanilla complete the nice long finish. If you enjoy Merlot, Strata is a great choice with attention to detail in the vineyards by long time industry veterans, small production and is entirely hand crafted. They are distributed in select markets in 12 different states and locally you can find the wine at JV Warehouse in the town of Napa.
NOTE: This review has been archived.
REASON: Stopped producing wine commercially
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