René Schlatter threw me a little bit when I met him in Toronto at the beginning of autumn. I was to meet a California vintner and instead I greeted at my door a French-accented man with attendant Continental style. Had I confused appointments with a vigneron from France? Non. First of all, Schlatter’s accent comes from Switzerland, and secondly he and his family have been in the business (and art) of making wine in California for decades.
Schlatter is the CEO of the Merryvale Family of Wines, that includes the wines made under the Merryvale label, at their historic St. Helena wine making facility, and the Starmont label, which is based down the road in Carneros. These are premium wines, the Starmonts are in the $50 a bottle range and the Merryvales start at around $100 and go up from there. These are wines meant for collectors and the high-end restaurant trade. They are sold here through ‘consignment’ by Merryvales importing agency, Profile Wine Group*. While price is no guarantee of quality, high prices do come with high expectations. Merryvale wines are consistently rated well.
Schlatter brought with him five wines, which we tasted. From Starmont, the 2012 Chardonnay, 2012 Pinot Noir and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were transcontinental in nature: from California but very much in touch with their Burgundian heritage. The white danced a bit between stone fruits and tropicals, and the red was, well, really red with cherry and cranberry. Amazingly the Pinot has 14.5% alcohol by volume, but I would never have guessed it. The Cabernet Sauvignon was more pronouncingly Pacific than Atlantic with some bluer and spicy notes over cassis and soft tannins. All three were enjoyed.
Next came the big hitters. The 2010 Merry Vale Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($119.95) was big, rich and full of black and blue fruit, with a touch of earth and spice in the finish. Were this to be ordered with a round of steaks, the table would be pleased and appropriately impressed; an occasion wine. Then came the 2012 Profile Red, which is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Petit Verdot and will set you back about $325 a bottle on a private order. It was really good. Like lost in the glass good. Deep, deep, dark, dark purple fruits: cassis, plum and violets. Firmer tannins means it could well age, but it was a treat young. Try it, if you’re able.
In the video below, Schlatter and I discuss the differences between the Napa Valley and Carneros wines, and why Starmont and Merryvale are distinguished from other wineries.Can’t see the video? Please click here.
*Regular GFR readers will recognize Profile Wine Group as a Good Food Fighter. As always, we encourage our readers to support the businesses and organizations that support Good Food Revolution.