Tuesday, September 19, 2023

David Arthur Napa Valley Meritaggio 2006

David Arthur Napa Valley Meritaggio ideal pairing with spaghetti bolognese sauce

Following the delightfully delicious food and wine pairing of a Super Tuscan Blend with spaghetti bolognese tomato sauce the other evening, I was driven to pull from the cellar this unique Napa Valley Super Tuscan Blend for a comparison tasting. 

When I first discovered and purchased David Arthur Meritaggio back in 1997 I didnt think of it as a Super Tuscan Italian Blend. But then that terminology or moniker had not been invented yet, or certainly hadn't gained the notoriety it has today. But, the concept of a Napa Valley Sangiovese was intriguing, especially when blended with Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon! 

Two decades later, we've developed a fond appreciation for Sangiovese, the varietal of Tuscany and its famous Brunello di Montalcino, and the increasing propensity to blend Sangiovese with Bordeaux varietals into what is today popularly called a "Super Tuscan" (from Montalcina, Tuscany, Italy).

Yet, it is rare to find Napa Valley Sangiovese, and more rare to find A Sangiovese Bordeaux varietal, or Super Tuscan Blend. Alas, David Arthur Meritaggio. The whimsical name Meritaggio is a brilliant play on words applying an Italian syllable to the traditional word 'Meritage' which is a licensed term to denote a US wine produced from Bordeaux varietals.

Sanviovese and Cabernet blends came into fashion in the 1960s and 1970s as producers from Tuscany began to experiment with the Bordeaux varietals. The results become legendary and these Super Tuscans as they came to be known now make up some of Italy's most famous wines. 

One of the most famous Tuscan producers was a pioneer in planting Bordeaux varietals in Tuscany, but went all the way to producing a Bordeaux Blend foregoing the historic traditional Tuscan varietals of Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. Our Pour Boys wine group attended a spectacular memorable dinner of the ultra-premium Sassicaia with the owner producer at a special dinner at legendary Italian Village Vivere Restaurant, Chicago, for a Vertical Tasting of the iconic label back in 2019.

Never-the-less, true Super Tuscan wines are a blend of Bordeaux and Tuscan varietals, so, it is that I pulled this aged vintage Napa Valley "Super Tuscan" blend to compare with the authentic Super Tuscan of the other evening. Such a comparison cast a whole new light on such a tasting as the comparison was sharp with not surprising similarities in style and tasting profiles.

We finished up the bolognese sauce from the other evening as leftovers for dinner, paired with this red blend from one of our favorite Napa Valley producers. Our collection of David Arthur Cabernet Sauvignon spans two decades, with several vintages of this unique red blend spanning that period.    

Our visit to the David Arthur estate and vineyards was a highlight of our Napa Wine Experience in 2013 when we had two of the Long girls, wife Linda and sis-in-law Pat, along to visit the Long Family, estate (no relation) unfortunately. 

We continue to have fun with this label with family and friends, having married Ned Long's daughter, no relation whatsoever to the Long's, proprietors, owners and growers of David Arthur Napa Valley wines. 

The origins of David Arthur Vineyards and the Long Family Ranch date back to when the Long family started visiting the Napa Valley in the 1950’s. Don Long, a butcher by trade owned a small grocery store in Portola Valley, near Stanford University and had long been interested in the California wine country. With a keen eye for business opportunities, Don began steadily investing in Napa Valley real estate leading to the acquisition of nearly 1,000 acres atop Pritchard Hill in the Vaca Mountain range above St. Helena, California. Don’s youngest son, David Arthur, founded the winery with his then wife, Joye Dale, in 1985 with the purchase of 30 French oak barrels. David and Joye’s daughter, Laura Long, now works side by side with her father running the day-to-day operations of the winery and vineyards.

David Arthur "Meritaggio" Napa Valley Red Blend 2006

This Super-Tuscan style blend is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon (77%), Sangiovese (21%) and Petit Verdot (2%), all sourced the from David Arthur estate vineyards (shown right). 

The fruit is all grown at the winery's Pritchard Hill vineyard, planted in 1978 at the southern end of the Vac mountain range overlooking the Napa Valley below. Indeed, their flagship ultra-premium label is called "Elevation 1147" denoting the elevation above sea level of their property and vineyards. 

This release was awarded 91 points by both Connoisseurs Guide and Wine Enthusiast. 

My tasting and cellartracker notes indicate we drank one of our four bottles of this label back in 2009, (prior to the launch and publishing of this blog). At that time I awarded this 93 points when I wrote, "Wow, this is good! Dark, medium bodied but full flavored - blast of currant, red raspberry and black berry turning to chocolate mocha and subtle tones of anise on the soft finish."

Like the Italian Super Tuscan from our recent tasting, this was a perfect wine-food pairing to the tangy beef bolognese tomato and herb sauce, enhancing the enjoyment of both.

Tonight, fourteen years after first tasting this wine, the fill level, foil, label and most importantly, the cork, were all in pristine condition. 

The wine was starting to show its age a bit with the dark garnet color taking on an ever so slight brownish hue, and the bright expressive fruits have taken on a bit more rustic tone with the tobacco and earthy notes becoming more pronounced, the medium-fill bodied, concentrated, complex black currant and blackberry fruits accented by spice, anise and hints of mint and pepper with smooth soft acidity and chewy tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 91 points.