Sun 27 Nov 2011
I say “some of” because there are more pinot noirs in Merry Edwards’ roster than are under review on this page.
One of California’s most respected winemakers, Merry Edwards began her career in 1974 at Mount Eden Vineyards. She was the founding winemaker at Matanzas Creek in 1977 and stayed there until 1984. A subsequent venture, Merry Vintners, was not successful, but with investments from family and friends in 1997, she launched Merry Edwards Winery, which focuses on pinot noir from Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, primarily from single-vineyards. The latter wines are designated Méthode à l’Ancienne, meaning that whole cluster fermentation occurs with grapes that have not been destemmed, a factor that contributes to the tannic character of the wines. These are ambitious pinots that accentuate size, substance and heft, but not at the expense of the unmistakeable and seductive qualities that make pinot noir what it is.
These wines were tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event.
The Merry Edwards Pinot Noir 2008, Sonoma Coast, is so damned pretty and balanced and integrated that you want to eat it with a spoon. The color is radiant cerise with a magenta glow; aromas of black cherries and rose petals, cola and cranberry waft from the glass, while in the mouth the wine offers delicious and moderately spicy flavors of ripe black cherries and red currants in a texture that feels transparent and lacy; the satiny finish brings in touches of briers and graphite. 13.9 percent alcohol. Absolutely lovely. Drink through 2012 or ’13. Excellent. About $36.
The Merry Edwards Pinot Noir 2008, Russian River Valley — notice the narrower focus from Sonoma Coast — is spicier and a bit fleshier than the previous wine; it features scents and flavors of slightly roasted black cherries, currants and plums with a hint of blueberry and smoke. Wonderful presence and tone here, great lift from vibrant acidity, intriguing aspects of fruitcake and cloves; you feel the gravitational pull of sanded tannins through the finish. A deeply gratifying specimen (and completely to Russian River type) of the pinor noir grape. 14.3 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2013 or ’14. Excellent. About $42.
Merry Edwards first made wine from Phil and Toby Flax’s vineyard, in the upper reaches of the Russian River Valley, in 2005. Those who follow pinot noir production in the region will remember that Williams-Selyem makes a pinot noir from Flax, but from an older block. The Merry Edwards Flax Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008, Russian River Valley, is an earthy, loamy wine that bursts with notes of black cherry and rhubarb, cranberry and cloves, briers and underbrush; this is substantial stuff, dark, fully-fleshed out, full-bodied, quite dry, with an inviting texture like fold upon fold of satin sheets warmed by a sleeping body; it feels etched with graphite, violets, dried red currants; the finish is long and smoky. 14.4 percent alcohol. Drink through 2013 to ’15. Excellent. About $54.
Ted Klopp owns this vineyard, which was planted with pinot noir vines in the 1980s. The Merry Edwards Klopp Ranch Pinot Noir 2008, Russian River Valley, is a frankly gorgeous pinot though of strapping proportions; it plays upon the broad panoply of baking spices, potpourri, fresh and ripe black and blue fruit with undertones of rhubarb and cranberry and dried fruit, all set within a package that deftly, almost riskily, balances delicacy of outline with tannic and mineral foundations. Of these four examples from 2008, the Klopp Ranch is the one that most exemplifies the principle of power and elegance, the one in which you perceive the influence of oak barrels, especially in the long, slightly austere finish. 14.4 percent alcohol. Drink through 2014 to ’16. Excellent. About $57.
This wine marks the first release from Merry Edwards of a pinot noir made from Georganne and Bob Proctor’s vineyard in the northern zone of Russian River; chardonnay vines were torn out in 2006 to make way for pinot noir, so this is a very young vineyard in terms of the grape. The Merry Edwards Georganne Pinot Noir 2009, Russian River Valley, is a large-framed, full-bodied, slightly bruising pinot that emphasizes structure over fruit and substance over finesse. It’s earthy, loamy and leathery, briery and brambly, and while none of these attributes would be out of place is a pinot that felt more integrated, at this point the wine seems a bit out of focus. 14.4 percent alcohol. Try from 2013 to 2015 or ’16. Very Good+. About $54.
Merry Edwards has been making pinor noir from Bob Pelligrini’s Olivet Lane vineyard for 25 years; the advantages of this long relationship and old vines are revealed in the wine’s generosity and complexity. The Merry Edwards Olivet Lane Pinot Noir 2009, Russian River Valley, is rich, smoky, meaty and fleshy, with an edge of aged game bird and scintillating graphite, but there’s a core of delicacy and elegance that keeps the wine lively and elevated; this feels as if chiseled from slate but with feline grace and litheness; in fact, the wine is downright muscular in texture, but not at the expense of a super-smooth, satiny skin. Black and blue fruit flavors are slightly roasted and stewed, though fresh, clean and attractive, and through the finish one feels the burgeoning effect of dry tannins and polished oak. 13.9 percent alcohol. Quite an achievement. Best from 2012 through 2015 or ’16. Excellent. About $60.
Planted in 2001, the vineyard is named for Merry Edwards’ husband Ken Coopersmith. My first note on the Merry Edwards Coopersmith Pinot Noir 2009, Russian River Valley, was “whoa, so much presence!” This is, indeed, a pinot that makes itself immediately known in every respect, from its smoky, fleshy, briery, graphite-tinged bouquet to its background of clean, mossy earth and loam to its dimensional layering of tannin, oak and vibrant acidity. It doesn’t take the grape to the Dark Side, exactly — some of the details of fruit, flowers and spice are actually winsome and beguiling — but it’s certainly a reflection of a vineyard that’s beginning to reach maturity. 14.4 percent alcohol. Try from 2012 or ’13 through 2015 or ’17. Excellent. About $60.