The Tasting Panel magazine

JULY 2011

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DON SEBASTIANI & SONS: from California to Chile Winemaker Greg Kitchens at Don Sebastiani & Sons says, “We’ve all had that glass of Merlot that made us go, ‘Wow, that was Merlot?’” Kitchens, a passionate Merlot aficionado, says it’s a wonderful grape that can be made in diverse styles. He likes its array of expression and says it can be light and fruity or dark and tannic, “and can give Cab a real run for the money.” Truly great Merlot is fruit-driven, with a profile that appeals to a diversity of palates, says Kitchens. “That’s No compromise: Robert Hall Winemaker Don Brady. The Chilean-sourced Pepperwood Grove Merlot is just one of several Merlots from négociants Don Sebastiani & Sons. Robert Hall Paso Robles Winemaker Greg Kitchens is a passionate Merlot aficionado. why we focus on medium bodied Merlot—with good rich fruit and integrated oak with a finish of moderate tannins and crisp structure—in both our Chilean- grown Pepperwood Grove label as well as our Smoking Loon Merlot, sourced primarily from Paso Robles.” Kitchens carefully selects his yeast-strains, although, “once in a blue moon” he will rely on native-yeast fermentation but confesses it’s always a gamble. French oak, he says, “has the ideal profile of vanilla and caramel notes with warm spices to integrate very well and enhance the balance of the Merlot fruit with modest tannins.” He adds that American oak is “a little too wild—but a little bit adds a nice spice-rack nuance.” A delicious glass of Merlot can be enjoyed with all types of food and all types of company. “But at the end of the day,” Kitchens proclaims, “the proof is in the bottle, and our passion with Merlot will definitely raise your eyebrows and put a grin on your face!” 46 / the tasting panel / july 201 1 For Robert Hall winemaker Don Brady, there’s no compromise when it comes to sourcing premium Merlot grapes. To ensure the pick of the crop, in addition to estate grown, Robert Hall also has long- term relationships with growers in the Templeton and Creston regions of the Paso Robles AVA. Merlot is a mid-season variety that demands a temperate site, and Brady says the variety does best when rooted in dense clay soils that are slow to warm in the spring. But, it’s much more than one attribute that distinguishes Robert Hall Merlot. “We have been growing Merlot since 1996,” Brady notes, “and making wine from our vineyards and a number of other Paso vineyards since 2001. It is definitely a series of elements that defines our wine.” Brady explains that their vineyard PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBERT HALL

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