January/February

Hot to Trot


MURRIETA’S WELL INTRODUCES PROPRIETARY BLENDS THE WHIP AND THE SPUR, A ROUND UP OF FLAVOR PROFILES THAT URGE ON RENEWED INTEREST FOR THIS 92-ACRE ESTATE

A history peppered with tales of a Gold Rush bandit named Joaquin Murrieta—the stuff of legend and mystery—brings with it a certain allure. Whether or not the colorful outlaw was the original settler of the 92-acre estate now called Murrieta’s Well, it is certainly curious fodder for the vineyard’s back story.

What is known fact is that Frenchman Louis Mel bought the estate in 1883, a prime location in California’s Livermore Valley, graced by warm days and cool nights off the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. Having the foresight to see the land’s potential, Mel built a gravity-flow winery into the property’s hillside, planting vineyard cuttings from such famous Bordeaux estates as Château d’Yquem and Château Margaux. He would eventually sell the winery to Ernest Wente.  Nearly 100 years later, in 1990, fourth-generation winegrower and Ernest’s grandson, Philip Wente, teamed up with co-founder Sergio Traverso to revive the property, and ultimately, its history.

New proprietary releases The Whip and The Spur are now driving forces in the winery’s departure from its well-known Meritage blends in the marketplace. Artful blending and the ability to utilize a distinct combination of varieties allow the winery to add a 21st-century nuance to the intrigue of its Old World image.

The wines debut this month. Here are my notes.

The Whip 2009, Livermore Valley (SRP $19) is a blend of 43% Semillon, 21% Sauvignon Blanc, 21% Viognier, 7% Muscat Canelli, 5% Gewürztraminer and 3% Orange Muscat. The first three grapes were aged sur lie for 10 months in oak while the latter were fermented in stainless steel. A lash of clean, crisp and fragrant fruit with a strap of vanilla pulls you in. The palate is awash with orange peel and soft summer peach sweetness. Lemon drop candy and vanilla bean smack the palate for a memorable finish.

The Spur 2008, Livermore Valley (SRP $25) combines 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Petit Verdot, 10% Petite Sirah, 9% Cab Franc and 4% Malbec, each varietal aged for 21 months in a combination of American, French, Eastern European and neutral oak barrels. This red boots up with a blackberry jamminess and introduces a savory basil and earthy core before it gallops to the ripe, juicy finish line.  —Meridith May

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