Twomey 2013 Merlot may be California’s best

1st November, 2013 by Patrick Schmitt

Twomey’s Soda Canyon single vineyard may have produced the best Merlot California has ever seen in 2013.

Twomey Merlot

Twomey Cellars was established in 1999 by the Duncan family, who have run Silver Oaks since 1972

In a discussion with the drinks business last month, Daniel Baron, director of winemaking for California’s Twomey and Silver Oak wineries said last year’s Merlot had hit a new quality benchmark, but added that 2013’s grapes were even better.

Twomey hired Jean-Claude Berrouet, Merlot expert and winemaker for Château Pétrus to consult for the Napa winery from 2012, and, recalled Baron, during that inaugural vintage, Berrouet described the grapes from Twomey’s Soda Canyon Merlot vineyard as “the best Merlot I’ve tasted in California” – despite Berrouet’s role as winemaker at Napa’s Dominus Estate (which, like Pétrus, is owned by the Moueix family).

But commenting on this year’s harvest, Baron said he believed the Merlot is superior to 2012.

“2013 is extraordinary; this vintage is potentially even better than 2012,” he stated.

Explaining his belief in the quality from this year, Baron said that Berrouet had encouraged Twomey to measure berry weight before harvesting, and to aim for lower weights, as lighter berries are more concentrated.

He recalled, “With Merlot one strives for an average berry weight of 1.3 grams, and in 2012 the berries were 1.4 and 1.5 grams, so we did a saignée to increase the concentration.”

Daniel Baron

Daniel Baron is director of winemaking for California’s Twomey and Silver Oak

He continued, “But this year we are running at 1.1 and 1.2 grams, so the berries are more concentrated, and that is leading to darker and more concentrated wines… so I’m expecting extraordinary things.”

Although Berrouet helped Twomey with the final blends in 2011, his influence was not fully employed until the 2012 vintage according to Baron.

“He has been actively consulting for us since May 2012,” recorded Baron, pointing out that Twomey’s single vineyard Merlot from the 2012 vintage will be released in September 2015.

However, Twomey Merlot, which has been produced as a single vineyard from Soda Canyon since 1999, won’t be markedly different following Berrouet’s influence.

“The difference is subtle,” assured Baron about the wine made with Berrouet’s assistance.

“It’s like if you ride a bike and you’re used to Campag shifters and you go to the new electric ones… it’s more refined,” he says.

Looking back to the blending process, Baron says he produced a possible blend from the 2012 vintage as well as Berrouet, but Baron modestly told db that his new consultant’s blend was better. “His wine was very elegant, something you would not expect from a Californian Merlot, he had managed the plushness so it was very refined,” recorded Baron.

Interestingly, Baron said that although his proposed blend contained 95% Merlot, Berrouet’s one had only 80%, with 15% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc, and yet Berrouet’s blend tasted more strongly of Merlot than his own.

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