True to its varietal and appellation, this vintage of Merlot is blue fruit driven, combined with aromas of wild blueberry, tart mulberry, and a notes of juniper. Subtle elderflower gives way to rich dark currant, baked plum, and a touch of pepper. Although full-bodied and well structured, its tannins are present, but well integrated. This wine is sure to be loved by Merlot fans, but is refined enough to appeal to any red wine drinker.
Vintage and Winemaker Notes
Sourced from the same vineyard on an adjacent block to our Reserve Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, the volcanic alluvial soil that makes up the foothills of the Vaca Mountains provides the same ideal growing conditions to produce an outstanding Merlot. The exposure of the vineyard creates a dramatic warming and cooling effect during the summer months, which in turn, stresses the vines causing them to produce small, dense clusters intense in color and flavor.
The culmination of factors from another drought year in California surprised us with another wonderful vintage. An unseasonably dry and warm winter, which led to an early spring, forced the vines into bud break during peak frost season. However, the spring weather stayed mild during fruit set and led into a relatively warm summer which hastened ripening to unprecedented early harvest dates. Although the crop, overall, was lighter (and much, much earlier), than we’ve seen in several years, the outstanding quality of the fruit and resulting wines cannot be understated.
Hand-picked, sorted, and destemmed into small open-top fermenters, our Merlot is coldsoaked for four days, then fermented at warm temperatures. The cap is managed by gentle pumpovers for the purpose of preventing the over-extraction of tannins, and maintaining a rich body and fruit-forward palate. After reaching dryness, the wine is allowed extended maceration for up to 28 days with minimal disturbance. It is then gently basket pressed to 55% new French oak, with a very small portion of American oak for nuance, where it is aged for 16 months.
Appellation: Stags Leap District, Napa Valley
Barrel Regime: 16 months, 55% new French and American Oak
The name Martin Ray resonates deeply in the history of California Winemaking. Martin Ray was a pioneer, dedicated to crafting single varietal, region specific wine from 1943 through 1972 in Saratoga, in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Mentored by Paul Masson, he took a Burgundian approach to his winemaking, and developed what is now one of the most historical properties in California, known as Mount Eden.
Nearly twenty years later, Courtney Benham stumbled upon 1500 cases of Martin Ray wine in a San Jose warehouse. Recognizing his good fortune, and his intent and drive to produce terroir driven wines, Ray’s historical significance and philosophy resonated with him. Courtney purchased the brand, and since 1990 has been committed to the production of artisanal wines worthy of the Martin Ray name.
In 2003, Martin Ray Vineyards & Winery made its home in the Russian River Valley, on the edge of Green Valley at one of the oldest continually working wineries in California. Today, Courtney and his winemaking team devote themselves to Ray’s ideology of making “wines of place”, by sourcing from hillside and valley floor fruit, they are relentless at telling the story of each exceptional appellation and vineyard.
AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, ID, IL, IA, KS, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, VT, VA, WA, WI, WY
Wow. What a wine. Not typically a merlot fan we sat down last week to enjoy The Big Lebowski and some wine. Long, semi sweet yet tart tastes of dark berries. Am I wrong?! Having chilled the wine to a crisp 55 in a brand new wine fridge, the smooth yet finely balanced flavors gave notes of black berry mixed with raspberry. Am I wrong?! While the movie progressed and the wine warmed up, we noticed notes of pepper and spice but not overpowering. Shut the hell up Donny, I’m getting more of this wine.
This looks and sounds interesting, however, I’m not a huge fan of currants or casis. Did you pick up on that dark currant note it states in the “Tasting Notes”, and would you or anyone describe this as jammy?
I received a lab rat bottle more than a week ago! Well done, Ariana!
I was missing my grandson’s second birthday because I had to work, so this wine was a nice surprise, and I hoped it was a good one…
Stag’s Leap Merlot- sounds promising. On pop and pour- beautiful color, great clarity, deep burgundy color. Nose of cherry, vanilla, some toast. Red fruit on the palate, a little hot, fine tannins, with a tart sour cherry finish. There is a noticeable drying of the middle of the tongue with a somewhat harsh astringency.
Enjoyable wine minus the harsh note, but better with food. Paired with a leftover sous vide strip steak, I was a pretty happy camper.
I sealed the wine with argon, and tasted it again on day 2 and day 3 (it was gone after day 3). It was better each day, which leads me to believe it has a lot of life left in it. The harsh middle note faded to the background. Clearly a well made wine.
A friend of mine (let’s call him Matt…) who is well versed in fine wine was over doing an espresso tasting and I asked him to taste the wine on day 2. He got dark cherry and tarragon on the nose, strawberry and fruit chew on the palate, and a dry mouthfeel with lots of herbs on the finish. He described it as a big wine, and liked it a lot.
In typical Casemates fashion, the case price is a little silly for a well made Napa Merlot. I would be in for a case, but the timing is bad and I have too much wine. Hopefully some Rochester folks will go in and I can grab a couple bottles from someone’s case.
Huge fan of this wine. Bought from tasting room in Sonoma County last year and this Casemates deal is crazy! Martin Ray winery history most interesting in CA. We had great hospitality hosts on site. Stocking up here again. Need to buy a ribeye and some veggies and I’m all set…
3~4 not a problem.
I think Klez is likely closest to you, I’m in San Diego and will deliver next time I’m up in that area.
Actually, next Wednesday in Culver City, but unlikely these will make it by then.
Looks like it can be 4 each, unless klez wants in or someone wants more/fewer. I’m good with 3~4. Looks like halwarning is good with 3~4. Looks like you’re good with 2~4.
davirom, what location works best for you/where are you?
I’ve got, as cortot would say, a Sherpa, coming north next week delivering to him, and have some of these to divest to others. Three already made to to Klez and are tagged for davirom, but it should have been five additional, two for klez and three for halwarning.
Should I hang on to some/all of these, or sent off to cortot?