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Roederer Estate, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Brut NV ($28)
 I love that the tasting room at Roederer Estate still shows its main sparkler in two bottle sizes side by side, in 750 ml and magnum:  same fruit (60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir) same blend, but fermented in two different vessels.  The magnum format contributes a rounded creaminess to the wine that is different than what comes in the ubiquitous 750 ml format.  Both wines are excellent, showing typical Anderson Valley apple and pear fruit, vibrant acidity and a long finish with a citrusy push. The 750 leads with freshness, accenting the house toastiness and zesty finish character.  By contrast, the magnum delivers a noticeably more creamy texture, and perhaps that allows the flavors to lean more into the pear profile.  Any way you slice it, both wines are delicious, and I highly recommend investing in both to be able to go side by side.  It’s an invaluable education, and it’s a budget priced way to get it!  The 750 score of 92 with a price of $28 bumps up to 93 points in magnum, priced at $59.       
92 Rich Cook


Posted by Michael Apstein on January 6, 2021 at 6:46 PM

Changes and Consistency at Merry Edwards

Changes abound at Merry Edwards Winery, one of California’s leading Pinot Noir producers.  In 2019, Louis Roederer, the Champagne house, purchased the winery, adding it to their already impressive group of California properties.  With the 2018 vintage, Heidi von der Mehden took over from Merry Edwards herself as winemaker after working with her since 2015.  What hasn’t changed is the stunning quality of the wines.

Though responsible for the entire lineup of 2018s, Von der Mehden’s talents were clearly apparent earlier with the Bucher Pinot Noir.  She has been responsible for that wine since it was first added to the Merry Edward’s Pinot Noir portfolio with the 2016 vintage.  Though I didn’t taste that initial bottling, I reviewed the 2017 Bucher (93 pts) last year: “The 2017, a large-framed Pinot Noir, combines ripe black fruit notes with fabulous acidity that keeps it fresh and lively.  Not overdone, it carries the 14.5 percent stated-alcohol seamlessly.  Underneath the fruit lies an intriguing and balancing mineral-like tarriness.  A delightful hint of bitterness in the finish reinforces that this wine, as juicy as it is, is not solely about fruit.  Refined tannins made it hard to resist now.”

The 2018 Pinot Noirs are equally impressive.

The 2018 Sonoma Coast bottling displays bright and lively red fruit character with savory nuances and a welcome hint of bitterness in the finish.  It’s a “high-toned,” leaner style of Pinot Noir that superbly reflects the cool coastal influences (91; $54).  It makes a wonderful contrast with the riper and deeper 2018 Russian River Valley bottling, whose fruit comes from a variety of vineyards in that warmer AVA.  A weightier wine with black, rather than red, fruit, the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is juicy and well within bounds despite a 14.5 percent-stated alcohol.  It also has that alluring bitterness in the finish (92; $60).

The three single vineyard bottlings continue to show the importance of site: Same vintage, same grape, same winemaker, but three different wines, all of which are superb.

The floral 2018 Klopp Ranch Pinot Noir displays a gorgeous layered complexity, with minerality and dark fruitiness intertwined.  It conveys far more mineral-like nuances than the Russian River Valley, reflecting the focus of a single vineyard.  Heft and intensity without being over the top, coupled with suave tannins and an engaging bitterness in the finish, make it hard to resist now (94; $73).

The dark and brooding 2018 Olivet Lane is amazingly refined, especially considering its concentration.  Less floral and fragrant than the Klopp Ranch, it expands and explodes as it sits in the glass.  Initially, black fruit flavors predominate, but with air and time, savory notes appear and take over.  Merry Edwards’ signature suaveness amplifies its appeal.  Though plush and powerful, it is not heavy nor overdone (96; $72).

Unlike its two stablemates, the youthful 2018 Meredith Estate displays toasty oak flavors and little else initially.  But, befitting a youthful, tightly wound wine, its considerable charms emerge with time in a glass.  Denser and more concentrated than the other two, it remains balanced and within bounds.  Under the new team, Merry Edwards continues to avoid the overdone, “Pinot Syrah” style.  Similar to their other 2018s, its grandeur is apparent in an intriguing dark cherry-like hint of bitterness in the exceptionally long finish.  The 2018 Meredith Estate needs a few years to come together, as I’m sure it will, judging from previous vintages (96; $80).

Thankfully, it appears that there’s no change in style despite new ownership and a new winemaker at Merry Edwards.  Their Pinot Noirs remain bold, yet balanced, expressions of that grape, not Burgundy wannabes. 

Read more:  Michael Apstein
Connect with him on Twitter:   @MichaelApstein

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
A Virtual Wine Travel Resolution
Jessica Dupuy

Looking back on 2020, there have been countless ways in which a wine writer's work has changed. One such challenge has been the inability to travel internationally to various wine regions for research. These opportunities offer a unique immersion into the culture, geography, history, and of course, wines of a particular place. Looking ahead to 2021, it doesn't appear as though travel will be back on the docket any time soon. But just as we have all had to adjust to a new way of working, my goal for 2021 is to continue to experience the world of wine by diving into regions I have yet to explore. And though I may not be able to do it in person, I can still focus my attention in a more intentional way. Sure, I may not get a stamp in my passport for the effort, but it beats TSA lines and cramped trans-Atlantic flights. This time, instead of letting a place lead me to the wine, I'll let the wine lead me to the place. Drawing upon wines I've tasted recently, I've fashioned a sort of Resolution List of wine regions I'd like to get to know a little better.
A Guiltless Way to Enjoy Sauternes
Michael Apstein

I love Sauternes, but rarely drink that sweet wine. One reason is that the classic combination of foie gras and Sauternes hardly ever comes up these days. But the major reason is that a little goes a long way. One glass as dessert is divine. Two is overkill. I relish Sauternes with cheese, most of which go far better with sweet wine than with red wine, but am reluctant to open and then potentially waste the remainder of a 750-ml bottle, or even a 375-ml half-bottle, just to have a glass. But what if you needn't discard the rest of the bottle? What if you could indulge and have that small glass of Sauternes whenever you wanted without having to invest in a Coravin®? What if just recorking the bottle and refrigerating it would allow you to have another glass a few days later? There would be no guilt in opening-and not finishing-that half-bottle of 1990 Château Rieussec you've been cellaring. The scientist in me said, 'Let's do an experiment to find out.'
Wine With
WINE WITH…Thai Style Curried Sweet Potatoes and Spinach

Leftover sweet potatoes have been on my mind recently. My guess is that sweet potatoes are the most common food leftover from holiday dinners this time of year and in my experience they are also the most difficult thing to turn into an appetizing new dish. Unlike leftover mashed potatoes, which can reemerge in dozens of tasty new treatments (potato pancakes anyone?), or turkey, which can be reborn as a soup or a sandwich, the options for sweet potatoes are more limited. If they've been subjected to the holiday marshmallow treatment, I personally wouldn't bother trying to find a new life for leftover sweet potatoes…but otherwise there are a few options available, Thai-style curry among them. In fact, this dish can be so tasty that it can stand on its own independent of holidays. It's also a fun and challenging dish to pair with wine.
On My Table
A Surprising Sauvignon Blanc
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

I like to think that I can blind-identify the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety and can also tell you the region of production for a wine from that grape. Sauvignon Blanc is a variety with particular aroma and flavor signatures, and although it is made differently in many wine regions of the world, most regions have signature styles for the variety. This Sauvignon hails from the Friuli region in northeastern Italy - a well-established region for this variety. I did not taste this wine blind, and in retrospect I wonder whether I could have identified it. I can find the typical grassy and herbal notes of the grape, but the richness of the wine's aroma extends well beyond those notes. I also find a delicacy and gentleness in the wine that belies the assertiveness I expect from a Friuli Sauvignon.