Mer Soleil 2002
The 2002 vintage was what we consider a picture perfect season for our vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation of Monterey County. The region is one of the coolest and driest growing areas in California, but this vintage stretched the description of “long and cool” beyond its usual limits. Starting with budbreak in late February, the season offered consistently moderate, even temperatures, with no sufficient heat spikes, well into autumn. In the typical daily pattern for this area, mornings were foggy and afternoons sunny and breezy. We harvested the grapes for this wine for September 25 through November 22—a record end-date for us.
The advantage for Chardonnay grapes in such a consistent season is that the fruit can mature and develop its innately layered, complex varietal character without the push-pull of temperature extremes. This year, nature was definitely our ally. But with this multi-dimensional aroma/flavor combination is always our benchmark for this wine. Everything we have introduced in our viticultural practices over the years and all our winemaking techniques have been aimed at that goal.
Our Chardonnay plantings include nine different clones, each with its own flavor nuances. We treated the vineyard blocks whose grapes have historically made the grade for this wine with extra care throughout the season, hand thinning the leaves that shade the grape clusters to achieve the amber-tinged golden color that signaled the flavors we were seeking. We vinified each small wine lot separately, whole-cluster pressing and barrel fermenting, then selecting the French oak barrel that we felt would bring out the best of each lot. We sourced the barrels from seven different coopers, each with their own distinctive characteristics. To further differentiate the lots, we put only about 40 percent of the wine through malolactic fermentation, and aged some lots in barrel for just nine months and others for twelve months. As a result, each barrel became an individual “flavor layer” to consider when we selected the final blend—in our view, an outstanding example of what this area is capable of producing with the noble Chardonnay grape.
Charlie Wagner II is a fourth-generation winemaker from a family with farming and winemaking roots in the Napa Valley since 1906. His first Mer Soleil bottling was produced from the 1997 vintage, and introduced the winemaking techniques he developed to create this unique, appealing Chardonnay style.
Tasting Notes - Mer Soleil 2002
Aromas of fresh citrus, mango, honeysuckle and vanilla with a hint of sultry smoke. In the mouth, the wine is ripe, creamy and mouthcoating, with complex aromas that show the evolution in the bottle from ripe usmmer fruit to layered, highly integrated wine. The flavors suggest lemon crème brulée, butterscotch, tropical fruits and toasted spices. The finish is long and balanced, with a solid sitrus core and a lingering impression of ripe fruit, toasty wood and crisp acidity.
Chuck WagnerCharlie Wagner II
Release date: September 2004
Wine Enthusiast, May 2005. Rated: 92 points “Classic Mer Soleil, which is to say it's a cmall nuclear explosion in the mouth. Don't drink it too cold, or you'll minimize the rich tropical fruit and vanilla cream flavors. This big Chard should be enjoyed with food that's buttery and slightly sweet, like broiled lobster.”
Wine Spectator, March 31, 2005. Rated: 87 points “Rich and concentrated, with a mix of mandarin orange, fruit cocktail, ripe cocktail, ripe pear and earthy citrus shadings, ending with a touch of buttery pear aftertaste.”
Connoisseur's guide to California Wine, March 2005. “True to form for Mer Soleil. This big, outgoing wine…wants not in the least bit for richness and size. Its ripe, braodly oaked, appley aromas are laced with lees and a bit of dried herbs, and its mouthfilling flavors follow suit with plenty of oakey spice as adjuncts to its very sweet sense of fruit.”