Napa Merlot – Give it Some Breathing Room

Napa Valley can sometimes feel like the Disneyland of wine.

I mean no disrespect to either Disney parks or Napa, since I am a huge lover of both. However, the proximity of each AVA is really like going from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland in a matter of minutes. Of course, traveling from Rutherford to Oakville is a bit more enjoyable than hopping between themed rides.

Since Napa Valley is the most well-known wine region in the US, you have likely already had wine from here. To refresh your memory, the area is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon. We’re going to take a break from King Cab this week and ride through the valley with Merlot, specifically from Calistoga and Oakville. Both of the wines discussed below will benefit from a bit of decanting to better spotlight the aromas and flavors.

Great Wines

Switchback Ridge Peterson Family Vineyard Merlot 2016

Located in Calistoga, CA, the Switchback Ridge Winery is part of the legacy of the Peterson family. Purchased in 1914 by immigrants Eliza and Mads Peterson, the Peterson Family Vineyard is still in the family and is making great wine. The history of this property is the history of so many American wine properties, in that Prohibition halted grape production and forced families to find another economically viable crop.

Thankfully, the Peterson family has transitioned back to grape growing and are now showing what this property can produce. The family has almost 20 acres planted with Cabernet, Merlot, and Petite Sirah. Switchback Ridge gets its name from the trails that line the hills near the family vineyard. The wines are produced by Bob Foley, who spent many years at Pride Mountain Vineyards and has been a part of Switchback Ridge since 1999.

Give it some time to open by decanting, and you’ll be rewarded with a rich, deep ruby wine with scents of red cherry, blueberry sprinkled with chocolate dust, and cassis. The wine had flavors similar to the palate, highlighted by the incredible cocoa dusted blueberry and a hint of raspberry jam. With very subtle tannins and a lengthy, delightful finish, this wine has a delicate aspect to it that is not to be missed.

Paradigm Oakville Merlot 2012

This estate grown wine poured a beautiful deep ruby. The aromas were robust and distinct and this developed wine showed scents of black cherry, black plum, some oak, and a hint of spiciness that verged on herbal. Once the wine had opened up a bit more, the black cherries dominated the aromas and the palate. This wine also tasted of black plum, and a tinge of oak and spiciness. This is a wonderful wine that is very smooth and silky due to the muted but not absent tannins.

While recently dining in a Napa bistro, we asked the waiter to help us decide between the Paradigm Merlot and another wine. Without wasting one breath, the waiter emphatically told us we needed to choose the Paradigm. That moment and the bottle of wine we drank that night has built some brand loyalty for us, which has only increased since we learned more about the winery.

The roots run deep for this family-owned business. The families of Ren and Marilyn Harris have been growing grapes in the Valley since the 1800s, and this winery has been producing wine since 1991. Paradigm appears to be a true labor of love for them, and they pride themselves on having a great group of employees working with them to produce their exceptional wine. One of those employees is celebrity winemaker Heidi Barrett.

Production is not automated, which means there are no machines harvesting grapes and there are no elaborate computers doing any monitoring of the winemaking process. The loving care provided to their wine absolutely shines through once the wine lands in the glass.

Buy and learn more:

Related Posts