2007 Sullivan Vineyards Estate Bottled Merlot Rutherford
 
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Sullivan Estate & Tasting Room Napa Valley Private Tasting and Lunch for Two

A couple of years ago, we came up with a strategy for prying open Napa Valley's cellar doors, cellars that had previously been off-limits to WineAccess. To our members, we called this new program "WineAccess Experiences." But for wineries up and down the Silverado Trail, we marketed the service as "WineAccess To Your Door." Our new idea struck a nerve from the Rutherford Bench to the top of Spring Mountain Road. Here's why.

If you spend an afternoon with winery marketing leaders, as we did a month ago in St. Helena, you'll find them all singing the same tune: "We need direct relationships with the consumer. Direct sales now comprise 30 to 40 percent of our top-line revenue, carrying margins that are double our wholesale sales. Resources that we had been pouring into distribution are being redirected towards hospitality. We need to fill our tasting rooms with enthusiasts. Then we need to treat them to experiences that will keep them coming back."

"WineAccess To Your Door" proved to be music to marketers' ears. The agreement was simple enough. If wineries agreed to offer library wines to WineAccess at special prices, WineAccess would provide the mailing addresses of buyers who wished to receive personal invitations for lunch and private tastings at the winery. As members enjoyed unforgettable afternoons in Napa Valley, for the first time a sales partner drove their customers to the winery's cellar door. It was a win-win-win.

Since the first WineAccess Experience offer went out, featuring a vertical tasting with Luc Morlet and Wes Steffens at Vineyard 7 & 8, hundreds of members have been treated to red-carpet hospitality on Highway 29. At last tally, those members have purchased over $300,000 of library wines on the spot — even before joining winery clubs. In a couple of instances, the results were far greater than wineries had imagined — never more so than with the Sullivan Vineyards Winery in Rutherford.

The first 18 WineAccess member visits to the Sullivan winery generated tens of thousands of dollars of direct sales — even before half of the visitors joined Sullivan's wine club. Those results help explain why the winery called us last week with a suggestion for another WineAccess Experience, this one featuring the last library wine from a 2007 vintage that won't soon be forgotten in Napa Valley.

Sullivan Vineyards is just 26 acres, set in the heart of the Rutherford Bench. With Staglin, Hall and Caymus in close proximity, Sullivan's rocky soils are planted to a classic Bordelais mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. In Wine Spectator's 97-point 2007 vintage, a warm dry, growing season in which Bordeaux varieties were brought to astounding natural concentration, Sean Sullivan turned out the most powerful reds of his career. While the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve and Coeur de Vigne were Sean's most structured and age-worthy releases, it would be this ultra-concentrated, finely muscled Merlot that remains the most forward of the campaign.

After six years in bottle, the astounding 2007 Sullivan Vineyards Merlot remains deep purple to the rim with explosive, primary-fruit aromas of dark plum, black cherry and violets. Rich and polished on the attack, packed with the black- and red-fruit concentration so typical of this landmark vintage, the finish remains formidably Cabernet-like, both sturdy and finely muscled, braced by the fine tannins of Rutherford's "Dust." Drinking marvelously now, but don't hesitate to lay this beauty down for another 2-4 years in a cool cellar.


Tasting Notes

2007 Sullivan Vineyards Estate Bottled Merlot Rutherford
"After six years in bottle, the astounding 2007 Sullivan Vineyards Merlot remains deep purple to the rim with explosive, primary-fruit aromas of dark plum, black cherry and violets. Rich and polished on the attack, packed with the black- and red-fruit concentration so typical of this landmark vintage, the finish remains formidably Cabernet-like, both sturdy and finely muscled, braced by the fine tannins of Rutherford's 'Dust.' Drinking marvelously now, but don't hesitate to lay this beauty down for another 2-4 years in a cool cellar."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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