Mer Soleil 2004
We often describe our Mer Solei Chardonnay as “layered,” and this vintage is a prime example of how that character is achieved. The 2004 growing conditions were stellar. With virtually no risk of rain during the long growing season—harvest continued until November 9 under cloud-free skies—we could concentrate our day-to-day decisions on bringing out the most distinctive flavors produced at each vineyard ares.
These differences are partly the result of variations in slope, soils and micro-climates, but are also built in by the viticultural choices we made to adapt to these variations. Since our first plantings in 1988, we have introduced multiple clones of Chardonnay and trained the vines to three different trellis systems for optimal ripening in each area. These choices are intensified in decisions we make all during the growing season, especially about thinning and leaf pulling.
For example, much of the fruit for this vintage came from our oldest-planted blocks at the northernmost border of the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, now fully-mature. At these blocks, we pulled leaves from the east side of the vines a few weeks before we expected to harvest grapes, so the afternoon sun gave the clusters an amber-gold hue, almost like the glow of a light suntan. In another block, further to the south and warmer, the nearly horizontal canopy of our “trentina” trellis system protected the clusters by allowing only flecks of sunlight on the fruit throughout the afternoon. The result was a complex, slow-ripened flavor that beautifully complemented the fruit from other blocks.
We fermented and aged the vineyard lots separately in French oak barrels before marking the blend. As usual, we selected our barrels from multiple coopers, again to enhance the layering of flavors produced in the vineyard.
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.
Although this vintae is very typically Mer Solei, to me it has a Burgundian feeling, especially in the “soft” impresson of the aromas and the supple, creamy texture.
Tasting Notes - Mer Soleil 2004
Mer Solei's signature aroms of tropical fruit (mango, honeysuckle and citrus) with notes of toasted spice (clove, nutmeg). In mouth, the flavors follow through semalessly, fulfilling the prmise of the aromas and balancing the ripe fruit with the acidity that is hallmark of this cool-climate growing area. The texture is mouthfilling—lush and dense; the finish is long and polished yet powerful.
Charlie Wagner II
Release date: April 2006
Wine Enthusiast, May 2007. Rated: 92 points “This shows the ripe tropical fruit of a fine vintage, yet maintains the keen citrusy acidity that makes the vineyard's Chards so balanced and ageworthy. Beneath the pineapple marmalade, apricot and caramelly oak flavors is a rich, flinty minerality that cries out for lobster.”
The Missoulian(Mont.), March 6, 2007. “This wine is fragrant, flavorful and well worth the money… Initial aromas of the ripe apple and pear inherent in Chardonnay quickly evolve into rich scents of mango, pineapple, lemon butterscotch and toasted nutmeg. The explosive tropical fruit flavors fulfill the promise of the aroma, which is then followed by the good acidity, giving this wine its distinctive layered flavor. The texture is lush and viscous and the finish is long and powerful, yet quite refined.”
Napa Valley Register, November 2, 2006. “From what vintner Charlie Wagner II calls a 'stellar' harvest, this lush, layered, barrel-fermented chardonnay belies its cellar treatment…it's a mouthful of pure pleasure.”