Domestic Winery of the Year

By Robert Whitley

January 1, 2019 6 min read

Our 2018 "Wine Talk" domestic winery of the year was a relatively easy call. The Merry Edwards winery, located in California's Russian River Valley, enjoyed a stunning level of excellence that should be the envy of the U.S. wine industry.

I tasted and reviewed 13 Merry Edwards wines over the past year, rating all 91 points or better. I scored two at 98 points, two at 97, one at 96 and three at 95. To recap, this incredible run of exceptional wines included the 2016 Coopersmith Pinot Noir (98), the 2015 Olivet Lane Pinot (98), the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc (97), the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc (97), the 2015 Olivet Lane Chardonnay (96), the 2015 Coopersmith Pinot (95), the 2015 Klopp Ranch Pinot (95), the 2015 Meredith Pinot (95), the 2015 Georganne Pinot (94), the 2016 Georganne Pinot (94), the 2015 Flax Vineyard Pinot (93), the 2015 Russian River Valley Pinot (91) and the 2015 Sonoma Coast Pinot (91).

Merry Edwards is owned by legendary winemaker Merry Edwards, often called the Queen of California Pinot Noir. Merry retired after the 2017 harvest but continues to oversee the winery she founded following brilliant runs at Mount Eden Vineyards and Matanzas Creek Winery.

The Merry Edwards winery specializes in single-vineyard pinot noir and chardonnay but also produces some of the finest sauvignon blanc in the world. Merry Edwards, the winemaker, is demanding of herself and meticulous both in the vineyard and the winery. Her wines, as the scores would suggest, are impeccably made. They range in price from $40 to $70 and are highly allocated because of limited production.

This year, the remainder of her wines from the 2016 and 2017 vintages will hit the market. I suggest you buy them up, because they will be the last from the winemaker's deft hand.

Next: import wine of the year

Best Value

Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.

Decoy 2017 Chardonnay, Sonoma County ($20) — The 2017 Decoy chard walks a fine line, delivering complexity and balance with an element of richness that doesn't take it over the top. With lovely aromas of lemon creme, a slightly oily texture and a judicious touch of wood spice, this is a chardonnay's lover's chardonnay that allows the fruit to shine. Rating: 92.

Decoy 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County ($20) — Decoy wines are invariably fresh and clean. The 2017 sauvignon doesn't disappoint, exhibiting grapefruit and melon aromas, fresh acidity, excellent balance and a lingering finish. Rating: 90.

Tasting Notes

Merry Edwards 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley ($36) — Edwards' sauvignon is arguably one of the two finest sauvignons made in America (Spottswoode being the other), and this vintage, her swan song as winemaker at her namesake winery, is a brilliant wine to end a brilliant career as one of America's preeminent winemakers. The 2017 is all finesse and flavor, showing notes of white peach, citrus and wood spice. With exquisite balance and impressive length, it is a wine truly worthy of its author's storied history. Rating: 97.

ZD 2017 Chardonnay, California ($42) — This winery has a long history of sourcing grapes from afar to craft exquisite chardonnay using the somewhat generic California appellation. Don't be fooled. There is nothing generic about ZD's approach, tapping some of the finest chardonnay vineyards along the cool California coast, from Carneros all the way down to Santa Barbara. The result is what matters. This ZD chardonnay exhibits that magic combination of firm acid structure with rich, oily chardonnay fruit to create a chardonnay that offers the best of both worlds. It's rich and creamy, showing notes of lemon creme, pear and wood spice. Rating: 94.

Wakefield 2014 Shiraz, 'The Pioneer,' Clare Valley, Australia ($140) — Though not as evolved or showing the early signs of maturity that are obvious in the 2013 vintage, the 2014 Pioneer from Wakefield offers exceptional density on the palate and ripe black-fruit character with firm structure and excellent balance. Rating: 94.

Bel Colle 2014 Barolo, Simposio, Italy ($60) — Like all of the Bel Colle Barolos and Barbarescos, the 2014 Simposio comes with a generous does of tannin. Behind the wall of tannin, however, this is a beautifully constructed Barolo that delivers an earthy nose, notes of black cherry and spice, and the potential to evolve nicely over the next decade or more. Rating: 93.

Scheid 2017 Chardonnay, Estate, Monterey ($26) — Fresh and clean, the 2017 Scheid estate chardonnay shows fresh, pure notes of apple and pear with minimal influence from oak barrels. Lean at this stage, it will likely exhibit more flesh and body with another year or two in the cellar. Rating: 90.

Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com. Email Robert at [email protected]

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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