In just a couple of days the 2012 Merlot is officially going to get bottled up which marks the 3rd vintage of MTGA that will be released (in a couple more months anyway).
I have said, and typed, in the past that if a winemaker messed up the 2012 vintage they should probably rethink their day job. Admittedly this is meant to be said with tongue thoroughly planted in cheek but 2012 was really the first “above average” growing season that we had in a while since both of the prior vintages were cooler and had a little extra rainfall at some inopportune moments. For me it was the first hot and dry year that I had to deal with from a winemaking perspective which did make it a little challenging.
In order to not “mess up” the vintage I wanted to be very aware of how the fruit was developing in the vineyard. In the two previous vintages the cooler weather allowed for some long hang times which allowed me to slow-play the harvest date a bit. 2012 developed much quicker and as a result I felt like I really needed to be on my toes. The cooler vintages also favored the style of Merlot I was going for: more red fruit characteristics, higher acidity etc etc. 2012 didn’t necessarily lend itself to that style as much. At the time of harvest the 2011 was still in barrel and the 2010 had not been released yet so this was still very VERY early on in the launch of MTGA so I definitely felt anxious about not screwing the pooch.
The 2012 Merlot was harvested a solid month earlier than the 2010 or 2011 which immediately had me a little worried but I trusted my gut and tastebuds about when the grapes had to make their way in. As the cellar ops started there were some subtle differences when compared to the previous vintages but nothing that was too far out of the realm of what to expect. As barrel aging began, and subsequently continued one the last 26 months, it has definitely take a bit more time for the wine to smooth out and integrate. While the aging process was extended by a few months the patience has definitely paid off.
Now I won’t give out too many spoilers but I think that the 2012 Merlot is going to be what you can expect from MTGA when Napa has its traditional warm and dry growing seasons. 2012 was a fun vintage to work with since it was more of a traditional Napa growing season instead of one of the “challenging” ones. All and all I am excited to get this bottling run over with so that the next vintage of MTGA Merlot can be enjoyed.
Keep an eye out for that release notice in February!