Friday, June 27, 2014

Atalon Napa Valley Merlot 2003

Atalon Napa Valley Merlot 2003

I pulled this ten year old bottle from the cellar for a grilled steak and pasta dinner at home. Atalon Winery’s label depicts an old Howell Mountain winery building built in the late 1800's. When they initially purchased the property, they named it Keyes Vineyard after the original founder General W.S. Keyes. They still maintain the old original building as a tribute to that era. In 2003, Atalon focused on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot which they believe embodied the best of what Napa Valley has to offer. They source fruit from the far reaches of Napa Valley and the surrounding mountains and bottle wines designated either Napa Valley or Mountain Estate.

Its not clear how much if any of this is 'Estate' fruit, that being from vineyards owned by the Producer. Strict appellation originale controllee (AOC) rules in Bordeaux only allow the (winery) Chateau to grace labels of Estate bottled wines. I sense the producer is taking liberties with that practice and taking advantage of the lack of such controls, other than the covenant that Napa Valley designated wine be sourced from (at least 75%) Napa Valley fruit.

The producer states Atalon’s 2003 Napa Valley Merlot is blended from four vineyards, from four different appellations. No sense of terroir here. The Winemaker Tom Peffer attributes the Carneros vineyard fruit with flavors of red cherries and herbal characters, while the hotter Oakville district adds pomegranate and soft textured tannins. He says late-picked Howell Mountain grapes offer deep dark cherry flavors, while the Stagecoach Vineyard, located between Atlas Peak and Pritchard Hill supplies minerality and red cherry flavors.

This is our only bottle of this label and the only time I've ever tried it so I have no basis of comparison or what to expect. Medium bodied, slightly opaque dark purple color - its lacks harmonious complexity one would seek from the diverse sources, it presents modest pomegranate, cherry and black cherry fruits with tones of leather, earth and dried herbs accented by hints of anise and mint on a somewhat flabby moderate tannin finish.

RM 87 Points

Blend of 98% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon