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The Queen of California Pinot Noir

Robert Whitley on

Frequent readers of this column no doubt know I often refer to Merry Edwards as the queen of California pinot noir.

That wasn't always the case, for when Edwards came out of U.C. Davis in the 1970s, she gained her initial fame making stunning cabernet sauvignon at Mount Eden Vineyards in California's Santa Cruz Mountains. She eventually moved to Sonoma County, where she added to her winemaker cred with magnificent merlot and sauvignon blanc at Matanzas Creek Winery.

Merry found her pinot noir groove in 1997 when she launched her own winery focused on single-vineyard pinot noir from the Russian River Valley. Over the past couple of decades, Merry Edwards pinot noirs have made a powerful statement not only about the potential of the Russian River Valley but also her prowess as a winemaker working with this tricky grape variety.

She rarely misses, which is why pinot noir aficionados eagerly await the release of her latest vintage each year. "Wine Talk" this week is devoted to the 2015 Merry Edwards vineyard-designate pinot noirs that hit the market near the end of 2017.

It is an impressive collection of wines, each distinctive from one another, that once again reinforces the notion that Merry Edwards is indeed the queen of California pinot noir.

Tasting Notes

Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.

Merry Edwards 2015 Pinot Noir, Olivet Lane, Russian River Valley ($68) -- Olivet Lane is Edwards' signature pinot noir. The 2015 is a powerful wine with broad shoulders and layered richness. The most darkly fruited of all her pinots, this Olivet Lane is built for the long haul. Its core is concentrated dark-cherry deliciousness. There is an earthy note and plenty of wood spice, with a touch of mocha lurking in the background. It's one of Edwards' best from this vineyard. While drinkable now, I would prefer to lay it down and wait another three to five years before serving. This remarkable wine will only improve with additional bottle age. Rating: 98.

 

Merry Edwards 2015 Pinot Noir, Coopersmith, Russian River Valley ($66) -- Coopersmith shows a floral nose that is seductive and inviting, leading to a richly layered, firmly structured palate that suggests this vintage will be best held in the cellar for another two to three years. Powerful and complex showing dark fruits and ample wood spice, the Coopersmith is drinkable now but will be so much more enjoyable after a bit of cellar time. I suggest decanting this wine if you serve it within the next year. The aeration will not only soften the palate but bring up remarkably complex aromas that are somewhat muted at this stage. Rating: 95.

Merry Edwards 2015 Pinot Noir, Klopp Ranch, Russian River Valley ($66) -- The 2015 Klopp Ranch offers a seductive floral perfume on the nose that leads to a richly layered palate of blueberry and black cherry with a touch of oak vanillin and fall spices. The tannins are relatively modest, making for immediate enjoyment. That said, this is a beautifully structured and well-balanced pinot that will deliver pleasure for several years to come. Rating: 95.

Merry Edwards 2015 Pinot Noir, Meredith Estate, Russian River Valley ($66) -- Over the years the Meredith Estate has been one of the most reliable big guns in the Merry Edwards arsenal. The 2015 vintage is yet another in an enviable string of successes. Showing notes of bright raspberry and black cherry, this vintage is more fruit-driven than some, but it doesn't lose the structure and depth that set Merry Edwards pinot noirs apart. Robust and full-bodied with inviting aromas of wood spice, this is a brilliant wine for tonight, or you could lay it down in the cellar and properly age it for another five to seven years. Rating: 95.

Merry Edwards 2015 Pinot Noir, Georganne, Russian River Valley ($63) -- While Edwards' Georganne Vineyard pinot lacks the edginess of some of her other vineyard-designate pinots, it makes up for it with finesse. This is the smoothest of Edwards' many pinot noirs. It shows luscious ripe-cherry fruit with supple tannins that make for a creamy texture that is unique for a young Merry Edwards pinot. It's stunning now and will be stunning later, so drink up whenever the urge for a luxurious pinot strikes. Rating: 94.

Merry Edwards 2015 Pinot Noir, Flax Vineyard, Russian River Valley ($60) - Edwards' vineyard-designate pinot noirs are limited production by definition, but Flax Vineyard is more limited than most, so hurry on down to your favorite wine merchant. This vintage is dense and concentrated, showing aromas of rhubarb and black cherry with a slightly leafy character. The oak regimen provides a judicious touch of wood spice but lets the grapes do most of the talking. The tannins are moderate and nicely integrated. It's drinkable now but will improve with two to three years of bottle age. Rating: 93.

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Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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