Hello, wine lovers tonight’s tasting is a challenge between two areas of the world with the same types of wine. Meritage from the United States, vs European Blended Red wine. Yes Bordeaux will be involved! The players in tonight’s competition will be as follows. Estancia Meritage from Paso Robles, St Clement Orropas from Napa County, Mouton Cadet Bordeaux and Chateau Marguax Lacombe’s from Bordeaux. In California blended wines with classic French Bordeaux varietals are called “Meritage” since the wines have the 5 classic blends of Bordeaux: Petite Verdot, Cabernet, Cabernet Frank, Merlot, and Malbec. Malbec is a popular wine in Argentina in its own right. Here it is only used a component to add character and spice. French Wines are traditionally more minerally in character with subtle fruit character. This style is referred to as “Terroir”. Terrior, pronounced (tear-waaa) terrior refers to the climate, which plays a major role in any wine-growing region. Sun rain soil sand or loam chalk or loam volcanic or diatomatious this is all terrior. These mitigating factors are the building blocks of terroir. The Bordeaux region is split into a left and right “Bank”. The divide is the Gironde River which snakes through the region flows and finds its way to open ocean. The river provides a cool climate in winter months as large bodies of water tend to do. This is the major source of water for the region along with some rainfall through out the year. It always is amazing to me how the same varietals can taste so different when grown in different locations across the world this is one factor that makes wine a mystery to many.
Bordeaux can be very warm in the summer months which is necessary to ripen the grapes and ready them for harvest. Upwards of 100 degrees Farenheight during the summer months is not uncommon. This weather too hot to drink red wine even for the most ardent of wine lovers!. Most of the same can be said for Paso Robles where Estancia is from. Bitter cold in the winter keeps the vines dormant during the winter months along with a cool wind from the coastal influence of the Monterey Bay. Monterey bay is the coldest upwelling of seawater along the entire California coast. This cold water is responsible for climate changes in most of the region including Paso Robles. During the simmer months Paso can become very hot well into the 100-degree mark during the day. But almost like clockwork the winds from the coast blow in after 3 or so and begin cooling the vines till evening. This effect on the vines requires the vines to stress and work hard to find ground water to nourish the grapes on the vines . Stress plays an important part in all wine growing. Stress on the vine is actually a good thing, Stress produces strong intense berries(grapes on vine before harvest) . When the vine is made to work hard to find water it is thought to produce smaller more intense flavored juice and thicker skin of high quality. This is where the growers start manipulating water and choosing proper growing regions for specific varietals .
Napa Valley clearly the most famous of California wine growing regions, has become one of the worlds best producer of Cabernet Sauvignon. Thanks to the founding fathers of the wine industry this relatively small valley has taken the world of wine to new levels of excellence. Terrior plays an important role here as well. Rutherford is a specific region along highway 29 which splits Napa into a west and east division. To the West are the hills of Sonoma and the chalk and volcanic mountains ranges heavy with rains in winter. To the east lies the Mayacamas Range almost an arid dessert scrub hillside and mountain slopes. This ancient mountain range is full of volcanic mineral laced soils which have eroded over the millennia filling the valley full of loamy volcanic rocks pebbles and sands creating fertile soils needed for grape growing. The Napa River also winds through the valley giving life to sun drenched vines in summer. Napa can reach sweltering temperatures in the summer adding to the stress necessary to produce high quality berries on the vine. Many single vineyard parcels of land dot the landscape of Napa’s growing region “Three Palms” in Calistoga north of the valley produce some amazing merlots. St Clement Orropas red Wine is one of the blends from Napa deep rich black fruit character give this wine rich mouth feel and well rounded flavor finishing with a soft chalky tannin leaving your palate ready for a fine grilled steak or succulent rack of lamb. Well gang hopefully I will see you tonight between 5pm and 8pm tonight at Ralphs wine tasting Looking forward to a great night of Cheers!
Mike Berger – Wine Steward