The Tasting Panel magazine

JULY 2011

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MALIBU FAMILY WINES: Saddlerock–Malibu Malibu Family Wines’ terroir is a classic example of “altitude determining attitude.” Think of Malibu and thoughts of sandy shores will probably come to mind. Surprisingly, the winery’s fields of grapes are set 2,000 feet above the Pacific, beyond the fog in the Saddle Rock–Malibu AVA. Consultant Ted Vance notes that the steep hillsides provide varying exposures to the sun for ideal ripening effect, while the proximity to the Pacific Ocean offers a balance of warm days with cool nighttime maritime influences. The Semler Estate Merlot is a classic example of exquisite mountain-grown fruit from the Saddle Rock–Malibu AVA. Vance says, “While every care is taken in the cellar to employ the finest winemaking techniques, year after year this varietal, more than any of the other eight varietals grown here, proves to be a wine truly made in the vineyard.” Vance describes the pH in the Saddle Rock–Malibu soils as “near perfect,” and the terroir is so optimal for Bordeaux and Rhône varietals, he’s confident a truly iconic wine will one day be produced here. With a consistently dense under layer of tannin, the taste experience is so full on the palate that many people find the Semler Estate Merlot to be as big and robust as the winery’s estate Cabernets. Malibu Family Wines’ cellar practices are predicated on minimal intervention. The coveted Merlot, limited to approxi- mately 500 cases annually, is typically aged for 20 months in French Oak (one-third new). The end result is a delicious 100% Merlot exhibiting the fine nuances of chocolate, coffee and plummy fruit. The Paso Robles terroir is expressed in the Robert Hall Merlot. practices and canopy management techniques fully develop the fruit flavor without over-ripening. The grapes are farmed to yield four to five tons per acre, and at harvest Brady tastes for full maturity, with minimal green flavors but no shrivel of the grapes. Inside the winery, he is constantly making trials on process techniques and barrel regimes with the goal of capturing and comple- menting the vineyard’s maximum expression. In blend trials, Brady has found that Cabernet Franc can be “the perfect foil for our Merlot, bringing up mid-palate and softening some of its rough edges, while adding lovely cedar aromatics to the blend.” But he adds that it’s difficult to isolate individual practices. “I want to believe that we are continually improving the wines we craft and the best is yet to come!” The coveted Semler Merlot is limited to approximately 500 cases annually. Semler consultant Ted Vance thinks the Saddle Rock–Malibu AVA terroir is optimal for Bordeaux and Rhône varietals. july 201 1 / the tasting panel / 47

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