2006 J. Kirkwood Merlot Napa Valley

J. Kirkwood Merlot Napa Valley

It all started with a visit from a friend: Jean Claude Berrouet, enologist at Chateau Petrus, the holy grail of Merlot, was visiting Dr. Kirk Reid in Napa Valley in the late 1980s. When The Man behind Petrus (and Magdelaine, Trotanoy, and others) tells you to plant Merlot on your hillside, you plant Merlot. Dr. Reid didn't know it then, but this southern end of Napa Valley, where it meets the hills of Carneros, is the golden triangle of Napa Merlot. And soon, others got it too: when winemakers like Michael Havens, Dan Duckhorn and Doug Shafer -- the cream of the crop of California -- all agreed on this spot, you had to figure that it was THE spot.

The 2006 vintage proved to be especially fruitful for Merlot from this corner of Napa. When you pop the cork, this wine is sweet and lively, but with time, it expands and grows in length, suggesting that it will have great life in the cellar.

J. Kirkwood vineyard and winery
J. Kirkwood vineyard and winery
Right now, this wine is purple black in color, followed by black fruit aromas of plum and berry, made more complex by baking spices and dried flower petals. There's lovely fruit on entry, carrying through the mid-palate and into a long finish, kept fine by plush, firm-to-round tannins. In the glass it evolves to more expressive, open blackberry aromas, with a full, lingering structure. It's even better on the second day.

This medium-bodied red is quite versatile with food. Pair it with anything from grilled veal chops to a porcini mushroom risotto.