"Soft floral notes lead to red berries, spices, mint and new leather in the 2011 Merlot. A pretty, delicate wine, the 2011 impresses for its balance. Like many wines in this vintage, the Merlot is soft-spoken and a bit slender, but all the elements are in the right place. Given its mid-weight structure, the 2011 is probably best enjoyed sooner rather than later."Antonio Galloni
"Made from 100% Merlot, the medium ruby-colored 2011 Merlot is straightforward and one-dimensional offering up notes of green coffee beans, red currants, sweet and sour cherries and hints of earth and spice."Robert Parker : 2011 Snowden Merlot
From Diana Snowden Seysses- 2011
The 2011 vintage presented us with tough choices at many points, from green harvest to fermentation all the way through blending. The finished wines show no trace of the worry they caused us. They are exciting, nuanced and precise with fine tannins and bright fruit.
From beginning to end the 2011 growing season was cool and wet. As a result, flowering was late and set was poor making for light, loose clusters. While it was clear yields would be low, especially in the Cabernet, we still dropped crop at the end of a drawn out veraison at our viticultural consultant Daniel Roberts' insistence. Daniel was worried about ripening. How right he was.
When October came along with its rainstorms the sugars were low by Californian standards, but perfectly acceptable, botrytis pressure was high and more rain was forecasted. It was time to pick.
We began with the Petit Verdot October 14th, followed by the Merlot October 17th. The Cabernet Franc and the Cabernet Sauvignon from our Ricos and Pool vineyards, what would become our Reserve blend, came in on October 20th and our Lost Orchard, the backbone of our Ranch blend, was picked on the 23rd of October.
The fruit, after sorting, was clean and had ripe flavors. Potential alcohols ranged from 13.5- 14.3.
They vineyard team was off the hot seat and now I faced the hard choices. After much consideration; gathering advice from David Ramey, a phone call to my maître de stage in Bordeaux, observing colleagues in the rest of the valley and reflecting on wisdom from Jacques Seysses, it was his words which stuck with me.
Jacques has often said that in less ripe vintages if you push too hard you extract green, under-ripe tannins. If you bleed or reverse-osmose a tank with those tannins in order to make a more concentrated wine, you concentrate under-ripe tannins.
I knew what I wanted to do and what I did not want to do. I sought the approval of my family, to make sure they supported me as commercial consequences would impact us all.
I chose not to chaptalize. I chose not to reverse-osmose. I chose not to add yeast, tannins or extractive enzymes. I chose not to overwork or overheat the must. I chose not to fight the vintage.
As always, I waited for a natural fermentation to begin. At the onset of fermentation I began pumping over twice a day, taking care not to let my tanks get too hot, until the sugar was fermented. I let what was ripe and easily extracted come out and I didn't push any farther. The tanks had about one week post-fermentation maceration then I pressed and went to barrel. The wines spent 18 months in French Oak, 50% new, 50% used until bottled, unfiltered, May 17th 2013.
My mission is and always has been the same; honor the grapes, the site and climate they come from. These 2011 wines are visibly and stylistically different than years past; they are the lightest in color and lowest in alcohol since '98. What the 2011s offer goes beyond stuffing, they are vibrant, pure and balanced.
Our 2011 Merlot (394 cases made) has pretty aromas of violets and black cherries, licorice and oak spice. On the palate it is round, bright and juicy.