Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Twomey Napa Valley Merlot 2002

Twomey Napa Valley Merlot 2002

For dinner, Linda prepared a casserole, warm comfort food, so I wanted a hearty big wine as an accompaniment but something more approachable than a big Cabernet. I pulled from the cellar this Twomey Napa Valley Merlot, from the 2002 vintage, old enough to show its true character and potential, but hopefully, not over the hill so as to lost its eminence and luster. It proved to be the right choice and an ideal match.  

This is sourced from the Napa Valley Soda Canyon Vineyard, the same vineyard source as a bottle we had with dinner just the other evening, so I was anxious to try this as a comparison to that selection too.  

I still remember we first discovered this label at Restaurant Tallent in Bloomington, Indiana while visiting son Alec there at Indiana University a decade ago. We ordered it off the winelist with dinner at what was considered the best restaurant in Bloomington during that era. Chef/owner David Tallent amassed nine James Beard Award nominations over the business’ 12-year history before closing in 2015.

Twomey was founded in 1999 by legendary Ray Duncan, founder of the well-known known and highly regarded Silver Oak, and sons David, and Tim Duncan. David served as the managing partner and today is Chairman and CEO of both Silver Oak and Twomey having joined Silver Oak in 2002. The name Twomey, (pronounced two-me) is named after their grandmother Velma’s maiden name and is also the middle name of several family members.

During the early years, they produced only Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the Soda Canyon Ranch Vineyard that they purchased in 1999, named for its location just off of Soda Canyon Road in south eastern Napa Valley. At the time, it was among the most expensive per vineyard acre transactions ever made in the Napa Valley. As prices for prime vineyard land escalated, in retrospect it was a very good investment.

The property was also planted to another Bordeaux varietal, Merlot. Daniel Baron, then Silver Oak winemaker, had worked at the prestigious Château Pétrus in Bordeaux and was very familiar with premium Merlot. Since Silver Oak was focused on and known solely for Cabernet Sauvignon, the decision to produce a Merlot based wine prompted the creation of an entire new label and brand, and eventually its own winery. The initial few vintages were crushed at Laird Family Estate (a custom crush winery north of the city of Napa).

Twomey Merlot is a single vineyard bottling sourced exclusively from the estate Soda Canyon Ranch, located in the benchlands of the Vaca Mountains of Napa Valley. Soda Canyon Ranch Vineyard is the exclusive vineyard source for Twomey Merlot.

Today the Soda Canyon property is planted to the five classic Bordeaux varieties including French Merlot clones selected for their low yields of small, intensely flavored berries. Situated on the first bench off the Napa Valley floor on the lower foothills, the terrain consists of well-drained volcanic soils full of rocks mixed with gravel. The warm days are moderated by cool breezes wafting up from San Pablo bay and morning fog, Merlot grapes ripen slowly here, developing rich black-fruit character and extraordinary complexity.

Twomey also produce a premium Pinot Noir, first released with this vintage in 2002, and one white wine, Sauvignon Blanc, first released in 2007, created from several vineyards in both Napa and Sonoma, including a vineyard next to their winery in Calistoga, and from the vineyard next to Silver Oak estate in Oakville.

In 2011, Twomey entered into collaboration with Château Pétrus legend Jean-Claude Berrouet on Soda Canyon Ranch Merlot, combining Jean-Claude’s expertise and the terrior of Napa Valley, resulting in a blend of Old World and New, California’s fruit-forward style with the subtlety and restraint of Bordeaux. 

Twomey Napa Valley Merlot 2002

This release was awarded 94 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, and 91 points by Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar.

This wine is typically close to 100% Merlot but invariably is blended with small amounts of other Bordeaux varieties (typically Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc or Petit Verdot). 

This vintage release was a blend of 99.4% Merlot and just a miniscule .6% of Cabernet Franc. 

The cork was dry and crumbled and broke in half on extraction (below). I hastily used the rabbit ears corkscrew which is best for recent releases and necessary for synthetic corks. I should've used an 'ahso' two pronged cork puller, which I usually do. I believe it would've extracted the cork intact, even in light of its deteriorated condition.

Dark garnet colored with a slight brownish tinge settling in suggesting this may be passing its apex, complex, concentrated, tight, structured blackberry and black currant and plum fruits with predominate notes of smoke, with tones of tobacco, black tea, herbs, cassis and hints of black pepper turning to a long firm tannin finish. 

RM 91 points