Quality You Can Take to the Bank

By Robert Whitley

March 28, 2017 5 min read

Over the past several months, I have recommended a number of exceptional wines from Merry Edwards Winery, regarded by many as the queen of California pinot noir.

Although Merry Edwards launched her career making top-notch cabernet sauvignon at Mount Eden in the Santa Cruz Mountains, she really found her mojo when she relocated to the Russian River Valley and started producing stunning vineyard-designate pinot noirs.

We've reviewed several in recent months, and all have merited outstanding scores, including a pinot today from the Flax vineyard. What's more, her sauvignon blanc just might be the finest in the United States. And her most recent chardonnay release certainly sets a high bar for California chardonnay.

There is a reason for Edwards' success, and it isn't good luck. She is among the most demanding winemakers in the world. Grapes are picked when they are ready, not a week early or a week late. Her precision in the cellar is second to none. Perhaps most important, she will accept nothing less than perfection.

Her wines are moderately expensive, but no one blinks an eye at the price. They are highly allocated, and it is something of a coup for a restaurant to add a Merry Edwards wine to its list.

Expensive wines can sometimes be a crapshoot, but know this about any wine with Edwards' name on the label: You get what you pay for, and you can take that to the bank.

Best Value

Dry Creek Vineyard 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley ($20) — Since its founding by the legendary sauvignon blanc lover David Stare, Dry Creek has had a deft touch with sauvignon and always given this noble grape its due. In recent years, however, even Dry Creek has found another gear with sauvignon. The 2016 is the third consecutive socko vintage for this wine. The complexity on the nose is astonishing considering the wine's youth, offering notes of white peach, tropical fruits, green fruits and a hint of white flower. The aromas follow through on the palate, and the structure, balance and finish are sublime. Dollar for dollar, this is one of the finest sauvignons made in America. Rating: 95.

Dry Creek Vineyard 2016 Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg ($15) — The news here isn't that the Dry Creek Chenin Blanc is a steal at the price. (The news would be if it weren't.) For as long as I've been writing this column, Dry Creek Vineyard's Chenin Blanc from the Clarksburg area north of Napa and Sonoma has been a winner. This one's another home run, showing exquisite balance and beautiful ripe fruit. This vintage exhibits notes of pineapple and pear, with more subtle notes of green fruits in the background. Rating: 90.

Tasting Notes

Merry Edwards 2014 Pinot Noir, Flax Vineyard, Russian River Valley ($60) — The Flax vineyard is one of Edwards' relatively obscure gems. She only makes 500 or so cases, and the wine is difficult thought not impossible to find. It's typical of the Merry Edwards style, meaning it's robust and juicy, and it holds nothing back. With layered aromas of cherry, raspberry and blueberry and a gentle touch of wood spice, this is a crowd pleaser that will only get better with age. Drink now, or over the next five to seven years. Rating: 96.

Dutton Goldfield 2014 Chardonnay, Dutton Ranch-Walker Hill Vineyard, Green Valley of the Russian River Valley ($50) — The name, including the vineyard designates and the appellation, is quite a mouthful. So is the wine. From the cool Green Valley at the westernmost end of the Russian River Valley, this vintage is a well-crafted chardonnay that finds that elusive synergy between richness and structure that lift all of the finest chardonnays. This one shows complex aromas of pear, lemon oil, tropical fruit and crunchy apple, with a subtle note of wood spice. Rating: 94.

Baileyana 2014 Pinot Noir 'Firepeak,' Edna Valley ($30) — Located close to the ocean in the cool Edna Valley of California, Baileyana's Firepeak Vineyard consistently delivers high-class fruit that winemaker Christian Roguenant turns into brilliant wine. The 2014 Firepeak Pinot (there's also an outstanding chardonnay from the same vineyard) offers bright red-fruit aromas, dark cherry and spice, and a silky palate with impressive length. This wine won a gold medal at the recent Winemaker Challenge. Rating: 91.

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.

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