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2016 Blueline Estate Merlot

2016 Blueline Estate Merlot

Winemaker
Tony Biagi
Vintners
Jeff & Carolyn Smith
Partners
The Chilton & Clark Families
Vineyard Designation
Blueline Estate
Soil Series
Gravelly Cortina River Wash
Appellation
Napa Valley
Varietals
83% Merlot, 10% Cabernet, 7% Malbec
Barrel Program
17 months in 73% new French Oak

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Other Vintages

Vintage Overview

Tony Biagi refers to the 2016 growing season as a “Goldilocks vintage,” not too much, or too little of anything.  All that fairy dust and grape chemistry in just the right proportions. Budbreak occurred at the Blueline Estate the last week of March, signaling what could have been another early vintage. When flowering occurred in the first week of May, we started to prepare for an early harvest tracking to match 2015. However, the subsequent summer months slacked the heat with cooler than normal temperatures. Wonderful diurnal swings (the magic of Napa) of warm days in the low 80’s and crisp nighttime temperatures dropping into the mid 50 degrees, became the story of the vintage.  These sharp diurnals keep fruit fresh and healthy on the vine, preserve acid and allow for longer hangtime without fruit damage, or excessive accumulation of sugar. In these conditions, complex tannins are allowed to mature and color development deepens, leading to more refined structure, better aromatic integration and longer ageability.  When harvest advanced, a vintage that looked to be as early as 2015, ended up being almost ten days later on vine. Ten days may not sound like much of a difference, but at the back end of harvest it’s the difference between a very good and monumental vintage.   

Tasting Notes

The ashen soils of the upper bench of the estate, where Merlot is planted, are not typical of Merlot vineyards.  Almost completely devoid of clay (very common for Merlot vineyards), these porous, mineral rich, nutrient poor soils yield incredible drainage leading to springtime water deficits, which result in a very small berry size. Smaller berries yield greater concentration/richness in the wines and firmer tannins. The resulting soils also impart a noticeable minerality, creating greater vibrancy to bring the density and richness alive.

The 2016 Blueline Estate Merlot follows the defining thread of the vintage—supreme balance. The signature aromatics of mandarin orange peel and Asian 5 spice, are interlaced with a mineral graphite and a band of high tone rose petal. As Tony notes, “The 2016 is a hybrid of the ’12 and ’13 vintages. The bright aromatics and red fruits of ’12, and the darker fruit  and structural elements of ’13.” The texture has a firm spine with a tight structural core, surrounded with a layer of silky fruit. Crème de cassis intermingles with dark sour cherry and an intriguing note of Asian hoisin. Deep and rich, yet alive with energy. A very complex layering of delicious fruit, wired with bright natural acidity and vibrant minerality. The finish is long and expansive. Amazingly approachable now, but it has the tannin and structural stuffing to age gracefully for a decade, or more.   

~Jeff Smith, 2018

Other Vintages

2015 Blueline Estate Merlot
2014 Blueline Estate Merlot
2013 Blueline Estate Merlot
2012 Blueline Estate Merlot
2011 Blueline Estate Merlot
2010 Blueline Estate Merlot
2009 Blueline Estate Merlot
2008 Blueline Estate Merlot
2007 Blueline Estate Merlot
2006 Blueline Estate Merlot