26 May, 2016

Happy #ChardonnayDay - A BrixChicks Favorite: Mer Soleil

Happy Chardonnay Day!  The day you get to visit a much admired vineyard is always a great one.

So for me, getting to roam around the Mer Soleil vineyard was a dream fulfilled.   Our wonderful visit was led by Charlie Wagner himself , the Mer Soleil winemaker and viticulturist, who generously showcased some older vintages.

First, the vineyard; it's a gorgeous spot, quiet and windswept.  Really really windswept.  I felt like a spinnaker, and folks from the winery said it was mild.  Wind tempers the fruit providing a delicious cooling effect.  It sounds trite and you can read and read and read about the effect of wind,  but actually having the wind try to steal your ponytail makes the phenomenon real in a way nothing but experience can.  Charlie said this "natural refrigeration" both keeps the temperatures low and extends the growing cycle.  Extends the cycle comparatively to the family's other properties in Napa, which includes Caymus.  In Napa, bud break can be around a month later, yet Mer Soleil grapes are still harvested later.

The Wagners selected this beautiful spot specifically to grow and vinify Chardonnay as the Napa properties are tuned for Cabernet.  Coastal area wind makes Mer Soleil special. Typically the local fog will turn off right as wind starts up, so a hot day will stay about 90 degrees.  This cooling contributes to a making a quality chardonnay grape since the climate both fosters ripeness and preserves acidity.

Reserve&Silver in the glass. Wind in the hair
Mer Soleil is a 450 acre ranch which the Wagners bought in 1988.  Previously a ranch, the vineyard had been fertilized by cattle for 100 years,  Today it is dedicated to Chardonnay except for some acres where Viognier for the Conunudrum white blend is grown. Soil is consistent and rich. Strong aquifers provides consistent water as well.  Goldilocks hydration means the grapes have to struggle and amount that can be categorized as "just right".

All this, along with Mer Soleil's skill with winemaking, contributes to delicious Chardonnay, which is done in two styles:  Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay, which is oaked and Mer Soleil Silver which is unoaked.  

We were lucky enough to be able to try both as well as some older vintages of the Reserve, which let us us experience different shades of gold:

Mer Soleil Reserve, 2009  Lovely deep gold color comes with age on this 100% Chardonnay.  We were able to taste for ourselves how the honeysuckle on the nose of a current realease, with a  a few years, morphs into truffly notes. Charlie says botrytis influences the changes.  I found the notes of truffle honey delightful, especially in finish.

Mer Soleil Reserve, 2004  Five more years turned the 100% Chardonnay a dark gold.  The trufflled honey notes of the '09 deepened into a more savory true truffle character.  Notes of apples and  honey were reinforced by the silky texture.  The wine retained a lot of freshness as well.

We tasted the older wines in a magnum format, which Charlie said slows down the aging process.

Mer Soleil Reserve 2014  The current release tumbled out of a 750mL with day bright gold color.  This Chardonnay has a freshness with honey,  apples vanilla and spice in aromas. It has a silky texture with spices and  pear in mid palate.  Mer Soleil doesn't control the malolactic fermentation instead, the winemakers just inoculate and let it the wine go to find itself.

Mer Soleil Silver 2014
"Lisbon lemon!" Photo credit WineHarlots
Lovely clear pale color in the wine foreshadows a delicious Chardonnay.  Nice acidity and savory flavors including touch of  Lisbon lemon.  This 100% Chardonnay is aged  4-5 months in concrete.  This provides oxygenation without wood ,  The tanks breathe and the wine evaporates.  It also preserves more acidity which Charlie likened to a "Sauvignon Blanc on steroids"  Maybe that's why BrixChick Janesta loves Silver event though she prefers Sauvignon Blanc in general.  Look for the signature grey glass bottles, whose style echoes the  concrete tanks

Estate Grown Mer Soleil "silver" lemons

Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay and Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay are two different styles that go with seasons.  Both will go well on your table!  Since they grow lemons on the estate, I was able to pick a fresh Lisbon lemon and create the most delicious lemon arugula pizza. Putting all my food and wine pairing learning to use, I was able to create home made deliciouness of "grows with...goes with" as the bright clear lemon flavor married with the lovely wine

Celebrate #chardonnayday with a wonderful offering from Mer Soleil

Read more about this amazing place, wine and team here:

Many thanks to the Wagner family for hosting me at the SLH Gala and to Balzac Communications for the invitation.