It seems like every time we see a tasting note on Merlot for the last 5 years or so, the writer feels the need to explain that even despite what the movies say, Merlot is a wonderful grape. So we’ll assume you’ve heard all that before, and focus on the wine: the 2005 Estate Merlot from Arbor Bench Vineyards in Dry Creek Valley. While Merlot works in the somewhat cooler regions of Bordeaux in France, in California it seems to do better in warm sites where the fruit can become ripe and lush, without any green flavors. This makes Dry Creek a wonderful place for Merlot, thanks to warm days and plenty of sunshine.
The 2005 Arbor Bench Merlot is ruby garnet in color. The nose offers lovely aromas of black cherry, blackberry, and vanilla, with intriguing notes of coffee, pomegranate, and pipe tobacco. The palate is fruit driven at this age, with raspberry, plum, and blackberry, and just a hint of caramel and pepper. Good acidity keeps things lively and fresh, with smooth tannin rounding out the finish and lingering on the tongue.
Arbor Bench has typically sold their grapes to various producers, but decided to start making some of their own wine to showcase what their vineyard has to offer. This inaugural effort shows that this site is capable of producing elegant, flavorful wines, and best of all, at affordable prices. At under $25, this is one to stock up on and enjoy with a wide range of cuisines; it is so balanced that it will pair well with almost anything, from roasted chicken, to grilled steak. A great value!
In the heart of Dry Creek Valley, Arbor Bench has been owned by the Hart-Lidow family since 1984. It is comprised of almost 100 acres, with nearly 33 acres devoted to vineyard and the rest to native woodland. The land is planted to Merlot on the lower reaches, and to Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec on the upper benchland. Unlike the sandy loam of much of the valley floor, the distinctive red benchland soils are gravelly loam, prized for more than a century for producing grapes of exceptional complexity and flavor. The valley floor and western-facing benchland vineyards receive good sun exposure during the day, and the grapes greatly benefit from the evening's cooling fog off the Pacific Ocean less than twenty miles away. These factors further concentrate varietal character and acidic balance.
Learn more at www.arborbenchvineyards.com.