2016 Star Lane Merlot, Star Lane Vineyard
VINTAGE As with recent vintages prior, another dry winter and warm spring led to an early start to the growing season. Spring and early summer remained warm but overall the season was even and moderate in temperature throughout. As we moved into ripening season in September, temperatures began to rise. A few heat spells in late September consolidated harvest timing and grapes arrived in a hurry. Quality proved excellent. Generous wines emerged, with signature Happy Canyon qualities of fresh herbs and blue fruits.
WINEMAKER NOTES Unlike 2015, 2016 vintage was less kind to Merlot. Yields were down generally, but also in part due to uneven fruit set which required more thinning than is typical. The moderate growing season was favorable for quality and as September ended and October began we did see a series of heat spells that condensed our harvest by accelerating ripening. One might expect that fact to have created a Merlot of size and exuberance, but in fact the wines were more elegant than 2015. We followed this thread with a bit less maceration time to ensure the tannin and mid-palate weight were in balance. We did finish the wine with a kiss (10%) of Cabernet Sauvignon for body, and a peck (1%) of Malbec for color.
TASTING NOTES 2016 Merlot has quickly become a production team favorite. Initial impression of both aromatics and texture are beguiling. Its charm, after a few sips and working into the second glass, reveal a wine with more seriousness. Its blue (maybe blueberry?) fruits are classic Star Lane Vineyard Merlot, but underneath one detects what seem almost to be hints of citrus and cool herbs like sage. The texture strarts with a lighter elegance but shifts to reveal its breadth and weight, not to mention finishing structure, as one sits with the glass. While Merlot can often have a more obvious charm than its Cabernet Sauvignon cousin, this vintage begs for time and thought - providing an intellectual reward to its up-front headonism.