2006 Saddleback Cellars Napa Valley Merlot

Mission Codename: The Wrangler

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Send Agent Red back to Saddleback Cellars, a Wine Spies Operative favorite, year after year. Procure their newest Napa Valley Estate Merlot, a wine that has been getting a great deal of attention among aficionados of the varietal.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Saddleback Cellars

Wine Subject: 2006 Merlot Napa Valley

Winemaker: Nils Venge

Backgrounder: The Oakville AVA, centrally located and adjacent to Napa Valley’s famous Rutherford AVA, was established in July 1993. Oakville is considered on of the most diverse AVA’s in the Napa area and grows some of the best Merlot and Cabernet in California. This wine is produced by the famed Nils Venge who is widely considered to be one of the best winemakers in the region.

To true wine lovers, Merlot is one of the finest wine varietals in the world. Today, Merlot continues to sell in record numbers across the US, outpacing most other varietals. Merlot is a sincere, food-fabulous wine for serious wine drinkers. Today’s wine raises the bar for Napa Merlot, by delivering a delicious, complex, fruit-forward wine with plenty of complexity.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Darkest ruby hues, with a deeper and darker heart. As with the former vintage of this wine, a fine ring of bright red ruby encircles the wine. After swirling, skinny, wine-colored tears move slowly down the glass.

Smell – Heady and full on the nose, a big rush of jammy blackberry, raspberry, red plum and black currant leap from the glass. These are closely followed by leather, soft spice, dried fall leaves, blueberry, black cherry and hints of subtle cocoa, sweetwood and anise.

Feel – Soft and very smooth on entry. Then, the wine digs in at the mid-palate, adding a soft dryness as soft, plush tannins take hold. A fresh acidity gives the wine added life and complexity. Overall, the wine is silky and medium to full-bodied..

Taste – Dark mixed blackberry, black cherry, black plum and cassis step out in front. As the wine settles onto the palate, it reveals cherry candy, dried leaves, soft leather, toasty oak, soft spice and a hint of minerality.

Finish – Very long and full of dark fruit throughout. Gradually, the fruit fades and is replaced by spice and earthy characteristics. At the tail end, a soft, mineral dryness is accompanied by a hint of black pepper.

Conclusion – There is something very special about this wine. It shows great fruit, both on the nose and on the palate, but it was the overall balance that really captivated us. Earthiness provides a wonderful counterpoint to the fruit. Plush tannins balance against the initial softness. Lively acids provide seem to frame everything in a way as to make this lovely wine feelcomplete. A very food friendly wine with tons of flexibility, we can’t think of many foods that this wine would not work with. We paired ours with a wood oven pizza, with prosciutto, arugula and spicy red peppers. This pairing was a delicious treat, with the wine providing a tasty, between-bites cleanse. This 2006 Saddleback Cellars Napa Valley Merlot, which comes, in large part from the winery’s own Estate vineyard, ishighly recommended.

Mission Report:


AGENT RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

NILS VENGE: The 2006 Saddleback Cellars Merlot is a hedonist’s dream! This delicious, concentrated wine has aromas of black currants, ripe plums, dark cherry licorice, and cocoa. It has a silky full bodied entry on the palate, with tamed/controlled tannins, plenty of sweet oak, and a luxuriously long finish. With proper storage, this wine will age admirably for ten years, however, we feel it is drinkable now.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

NILS: Merlot is a classic wine and should be paired with classic foods such as pasta and pizza. It’s everyday approach-ability pairs well with steak and blue cheese, roasted chicken with a wild mushroom demi glaze or even a Veal sausage rissoto. Pork and Lamb prepared grilled or roasted both uniquely match the layers of earth and fruit in the layers of the wine

RED: In your opinion, what makes the grapes for today’s Merlot so special?

NILS: This wine is a classic style worthy of distinction as a blend from the best of three Napa Valley vineyard sites. Our Oakville estate, where we have one and one-half acres planted, blended with grapes from the Truchard vineyard in Carneros, Napa as well as the Galleron vineyard in Rutherford, Napa Valley.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

NILS: Now that spring is finally here we’ve been busy at the vineyard rotatilling rows, replacing end posts and fixing broken grape stakes. As much as we would like to kick back and enjoy the delayed warm weather, we are occupied by preparing for the 2012 growing season!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The approximate location of the Saddleback Cellarscan be seen in this satellite photo.

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