We are pleased to participate again in this year’s 27th Annual Taos Winter Wine Festival, by hosting one of Napa Valley’s most prestigious wineries – Merryvale Vineyards – right here at The Blonde Bear Tavern. President and manager of the winery’s day-to-day operations, René Schlatter, will be on hand for this special wine dinner to guide guests through six of Merryvale’s most notable wines. Sous Chef Martha Jurardo, our kitchen staff, and I have meticulously developed a menu that will highlight these wines in a way that will engage the palate of both wine connoisseurs and novice wine lovers alike.
The first winery built in Napa Valley following the repeal of Prohibition, Merryvale is located in the heart of America’s premier wine region. The winery’s focus is on crafting elegant, complex wines in the finest European style, yet reflecting the exuberant fruit from the Napa Valley and Sonoma appellations.
Merryvale’s white wines are whole-cluster-pressed to yield the clearest juice, and then fermented with native yeasts in French oak barrels. The reds are made using traditional European methods and also aged in French oak barrels; they are then bottled unfiltered, which contributes to the rich, round flavors and supple textures.
Ask Merryvale Proprietor Jack Schlatter about his background as a cotton classer in México, coffee taster in Brazil, or any of his other fascinating experiences and he’ll quickly steer the conversation back to his true passion – the wines of Merryvale Vineyards. A native of Switzerland, Jack’s lifelong love of wine drew him to the Napa Valley to become a partner in Merryvale.
“Napa Valley’s diversity of soils and microclimates allows us to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir just a few miles from Cabernet. There’s no other place in the world like it.” says Jack.
Jack has dedicated himself to making sure the winery remained true to its founding vision of crafting fine wines that capture the essence of Napa Valley’s noble vineyards. One of his earliest decisions was to allocate all of the winery’s resources to uncompromised grape quality and winemaking. Dramatic improvements were made in equipment, facilities, wine grape sources and personnel.
“I’ve always said that quality is Merryvale’s life insurance,” he says. As Jack is now looking forward to more free time with his wife, Lilo, their son René is responsible for the winery’s day-to-day operations.
René upholds his family’s integrity in his broad role as president. Working his way up the Merryvale ladder the old-fashioned way, he has held progressively more responsible positions since 1995. Also born in Switzerland (near Geneva), René grew up an expert skier and all things snow. He has lived in the U.S. since 1987 and played Division 1 tennis at Trinity University and earned his MBA from the American Graduate School of International Management in Arizona. He lives in St. Helena with his wife, Laurence, their three young daughters and two friendly dogs.
That Laurence’s family has owned a winery in Switzerland for five generations provides a special sense of tradition. “It’s very rewarding to continue this family heritage at Merryvale,” says Jack.
Together, Jack and René have developed long term partnerships with some of the best wine grape growers in the Napa Valley, as well as making the careful assessment to acquire three estate vineyards:
- 70-acre Saint Helena Estate Vineyard on a ridge top high above St. Helena ideal for the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot to which it is planted
- 55-acre Stanly Ranch Estate Vineyard on the historic Stanly Ranch in Carneros ideal for the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah grown there
- Juliana Vineyard in Pope Valley, planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
In 2006, Merryvale completed construction on a second winery in the Napa Valley’s Carneros region. This state-of-the-art facility, called Starmont after the Merryvale wines of the same label, is “green” with 100% of winery process water being recycled and 54% of the winery operations powered by solar energy. The Schlatters are committed to protecting and preserving the Napa Valley for future generations using sustainable practices. Both wineries and estate vineyards have been Napa Green Certified.
Merryvale produces ultra-premium Napa Valley wines available throughout the US, Europe and Asia. The winery has earned numerous awards and continues to gain critical acclaim for its outstanding wines and hospitality.
“Starmont” Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley, 2011
This wine is sourced from several distinct growing regions within the Napa Valley, including Oak Knoll, and Rutherford, each contributing a different expression of the varietal. The wine is fermented in a combination of neutral French oak (60% of the blend; only 2% new) and stainless steel tanks (40%). The intent is to preserve and enhance the varietal nuances and texture complexity.
Tasting Notes: Full and lush mouthfeel with refreshing acidity providing for a wonderfully long finish that ends with clean minerality of wet slate, and bright kumquat rind.
Sourced from the Stanly Ranch Estate Vineyard and Hyde Vineyard in Carneros, the fruit for this Chardonnay is carefully sorted, whole cluster pressed and barrel fermented using 100% native yeast. The wine spent 11 months in French oak barrels on the lees.
Tasting Notes: Displays expressive aromas of pear, papaya, citrus, nectarine, pineapple, toasty oak and spice. The wine is medium weight with a round fleshy texture and a crisp sweet finish.
Pinot Noir Carneros, 2011
Sourced from vineyards throughout the Carneros appellation, including Merryvale’s Estate Vineyard on the Stanly Ranch, this wine is a blend of favorite Pinot Noir clones including: Dijon 114, 115, 667, 777, and 823, along with Pommard and Swan. The Dijon clones bring good color, bright focused fruit, and concentration. The Pommard and Swan clones bring nuanced complexity, along with minerality and great texture. The grapes were handpicked and carefully sorted. The wine was aged for twelve months in French oak and bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Tasting Notes: Soft, yet bright entry, round and pleasantly balanced on the mid-palate, medium weight. Finishes with delicate length.
Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, 2008
This Napa Cabernet received choice lots from the Estate Vineyard located in the hills high above St. Helena, as well as fruit from other top Napa vineyards, including Stagecoach and Sugarloaf. The fruit was hand-picked and triple sorted before undergoing extended maceration and a long, cool fermentation for increased flavor, color and aroma. The wine was aged for 18 months in 70% new French oak, including 20% of the wine coming from larger 500 liter (132 gallon) puncheons. The wine only racked twice and was bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Tasting Notes: Dark red/purple in color with lifted aromas of cassis, blackberry, violets and cedar interwoven with vanilla and toasty oak. The wine is plush and round in the mouth with resolved tannins and great intensity.
“Profile” Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, 2009
Profile is Merryvale’s flagship red Bordeaux blend showcasing the very best fruit from each vintage. Most of the Cabernet Sauvignon and all of the Petit Verdot are sourced from the St. Helena Estate Vineyard, planted fifteen years ago. The favorite lots of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc are chosen for their concentration, depth of flavor and fine tannin structure to produce a wine that is rich, elegant and opulent. After extended skin contact, native malolactic fermentation in barrel and periodic lees stirring, the wine undergoes extensive tasting and blending until the final version of Profile is complete. The wine was aged the 2009 Profile for 21 months in 100% new French Oak barrels, and an additional year in bottle before release.
Tasting Notes: Shows powerful aromas of cassis, blackberry, raspberry liqueur, licorice, sweet vanilla bean, complex oak and baking spices, including cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. Upon entry on the palate, this wine displays a generous, mouth-coating texture, with very fine tannins and exceptional length.
“Antigua” Napa Valley, NV
This dessert wine is 100% Muscat De Frontignan from vintages 1970 to 1983, 1992 to 1994. It is fortified with fine pot-still brandy, aged in French oak barrels and tanks with 11 years average aging.
Tasting Notes: Golden/amber in color from its long aging in French oak, the wine is a complex combination of nuts and orange-peel aromas. Thick and rich in the mouth, the nuts and orange-peel theme continues from the entry through the long finish, highlighted by the many subtleties from the fine brandy and time in the barrel.
Parmigiano-Reggiano drizzled with 12-year old Balsamic Vinegar
Venetian Paté Crostini
Endive stuffed with Gorgonzola and Walnuts, drizzled with Chestnut Honey
“Starmont” by Merryvale Sauvignon Blanc
Seared Scallop on a bed of Baby Lettuces with Blood Orange Vinaigrette
Merryvale Carneros Chardonnay
Four-Mushroom Lasagne with Spinach Pasta
Merryvale Carneros Pinot Noir
Roast Beef with Mountain Gravy
Farro cooked in the manner of Risotto with Chanterelles
Roasted Beets with Crumbles of Mountain Gorgonzola and Walnuts
Merryvale Napa Cabernet Sauvignon
Pots de Crème au Chocolat with Raspberry Sauce
Merryvale Napa Cabernet Sauvignon “Profile”
27th ANNUAL TAOS WINTER WINE FESTIVAL
The Reserve Tasting will be held at the elegant El Monte Sagrado Resort, with many of Taos’ best restaurants serving signature appetizers alongside tastes of reserve wine from owners and winemakers from 36 participating wineries. This Opening Night Reserve Tasting also features a silent auction of wine to benefit the Taos High School Culinary Arts Program.
The Grand Tasting will be held right here in Taos Ski Valley, and will feature more than 155 different wines — and tastes from a dozen of Taos and Taos Ski Valley’s finest restaurants, including The Blonde Bear Tavern. A silent auction of rare wines benefits the Taos Community Foundation.
For more information and tickets, visit the Taos Winter Wine Festival website. Please stop by our booth to say hello — and after the event, why not come to The Blonde Bear Tavern for dinner and a little more wine?
.The Merryvale Vineyards Wine Dinner Friday, February 1, 2013 6:30 pm $95 per person plus tax and gratuity The Blonde Bear Tavern 106 Sutton Place Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico 575.737.6900 ext. 6996 Reservations required