Merryvale barrel room

Napa Roots

My love of wine goes way back. But it never flourished until I first visited Napa. The Napa Valley is ground zero for world class Cabernet Sauvignon, the first varietal that made me realize just how good wine can be.

Even if you’re a casual wine drinker you may know names like Mondavi, Beaulieu (BV), Sterling, Beringer and Domaine Chandon.

Merryvale ProfileThough I’ve been to all of those, I’ve come to prefer the small and medium sized producers, where you can get the personal touch. Ron, our host at Merryvale in Saint Helena, is a perfect example.

We stopped by Merryvale because we wanted to try some of their limited production wines. Ron started by pouring a few of their more widely distributed labels. You can buy the Merryvale Starmont Cabernet and Chardonnay in many supermarkets, and both are a good value. I’m always trying to get a photo or two, so while Ron was engaged with the Official Wife of the Wine Columnist (OWWC), I decided to sneak through the big doors marked “Employees Only” and get a shot of the barrel room.

Busted! I apologized to our host as he summoned me from the barrel room while explaining that the winemaker worries about bacteria contaminating the wine. “If you want a picture of some wine barrels, we have empty ones over here,” Ron said as he led the OWWC and me into a cavernous warehouse stacked to the ceiling with racks of empty oak barrels. “While we’re here,” Ron said, “let’s check out the library.” A library is a climate controlled stash of bottles from every vintage a winery has chosen to keep. In California, they can go back 100 years, which is actually longer than you can expect even a Cabernet to remain drinkable. The Merryvale library contains large format bottles of many high end wines, including the Profile Cabernet, Ron explained as he launched into an animated dissertation about the history of Merryvale.

Merryvale Tasting Room Napa

We ended up tasting a lot of great wines that day, some retailing for over $100 a bottle. If you make a point to get to know your pour person and express a real interest in wine, you’ll get better service and maybe the opportunity to try things that are too rare or too expensive to be on the regular tasting menu. There’s a lot more to report from our recent trip to Napa, so please come back in June and we’ll be Wining Again