End of an Era

By Robert Whitley

February 25, 2020 5 min read

Just a few days ago, Merry Edwards posted pictures of her final day at the Merry Edwards Winery, which the legendary winemaker founded in Sebastopol, California, in 1997.

Merry, who started her career as a winemaker in 1974 at Mount Eden Vineyards in California's Santa Cruz Mountains, has retired after an illustrious 45-year career. In this column I frequently called her the Queen of Pinot Noir, although she was best known in the early years for stellar cabernet sauvignon while at Mount Eden and for breakthrough merlot during a stint at Matanzas Creek.

Yet it was the more than two decades at her namesake winery that cemented her reputation as a genius with the difficult pinot noir grape. She was known to be meticulous and demanding of herself as well as her team, and that showed up in her wines. Her many single-vineyard pinot noirs ran the gamut from brilliant to extraordinary, a record of excellence unmatched in California over the past 20 years.

I also would argue her chardonnay and sauvignon blanc have few equals domestically. Merry paved the way for retirement last February when she sold the winery to the French Champagne house Louis Roederer. That followed a decision in October to hand over the winemaking reins to associate winemaker Heidi von der Mehden.

When I first started writing this column some 29 years ago, Merry was already a star. That star only got brighter as the years rolled past. Merry will be remembered for putting California pinot noir, particularly Sonoma County pinot noir, on an equal footing with Oregon and Burgundy, encouraging others to take a shot at that noble but tricky grape.

I am confident the Merry Edwards Winery will continue to operate at a very high level, but there is also no doubt this is the end of a glorious era.

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.

Enrico Serafino 2018 Grifo del Quartaro' Gavi di Gavi DOCG, Italy ($17) — Get it while you can because this is one of the best values in an Italian white wine that I've ever encountered. This Gavi (100% Cortese) exhibits brilliant notes of citrus with a textured mouthfeel that is unique for this grape variety. Clean, crisp and refreshing with impressive length on the palate, it's a remarkable wine for the price. Rating: 94.

Tasting Notes

Paraduxx 2016 Atlas Peak Red Wine, Napa Valley ($82) — This blend of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon comes from viticulture royalty. The sangiovese is sourced from the acclaimed Antinori vineyard and the cabernet from the iconic Stagecoach Vineyard. Both of these exceptional Atlas Peak vineyards possess a long and storied history. One of the claims to fame both share is extraordinary structure, a result of the cool Atlas Peak microclimate. This vintage exhibits remarkable fruit purity, showing notes of cherry, blackberry and cassis nicely framed with a touch of wood spice and a subtle hint of graphite. Rating: 98.

Dutton Goldfield 2017 Pinot Noir, Redwood Ridge, Sonoma Coast ($62) — Another stunner from winemaker Dan Goldfield, this vintage of the Redwood Ridge pinot noir offers exceptional depth, with a floral top note and complex aromas of raspberry, strawberry and wood spice. Showing backbone, this is a pinot likely to improve as it matures. Drink now and over the next 10 years. Rating: 94.

Luca Bosio 2015 Barolo DOCG, Italy ($44.99) — This is that rare young Barolo (indeed, at five years, most Barolo is still considered young) that is fleshy and juicy despite ample tannin and firm acidity. It can be enjoyed now, but another five to seven years in the cellar would likely be rewarded with delicious evolution. This vintage shows notes of black cherry and leather, with a most subtle touch of wood spice. Rating: 93.

Le Colture 2018 Rive di Santo Stefano Gerardo Brut Prosecco, Valdobbiadene Superiore, Italy ($22) — I am an unabashed fan of brut Prosecco from the Valdobbiadene district, which, to my mind, is the source of the most sophisticated and consistently elegant Prosecco wines. This vintage from Gerardo is creamy on the palate despite a strong note of typically tart green apple. Complex notes of apple, pear and peach deliver aromatically, and the long finish ends with a hint of brioche. Rating: 92.

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: Didgeman at Pixabay

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