The Magic of Merlot
Merlot is one of the world’s grand red wine grapes. For centuries it has been an essential component at nearly every great chateau in France’s famed Bordeaux region. In the relatively cool and rainy climate of the appellation – especially the districts of Pomerol and St. Emilion – Merlot has an ability to ripen early. Its softness, suppleness and charming plum, cherry and blackcurrant flavors add depth and dimension to the firmer, more tannic Cabernet Sauvignon.
Merlot most likely came to California in the 1830s with Jean Louis Vignes, a Bordeaux native who imported and planted vine cuttings in what is now downtown Los Angeles. Merlot moved north and thrived in the benign climates and varied soils of Napa Valley, Sonoma and Livermore valleys. Not until the past decade did vintners fully realize that Merlot produces its finest fruit under slightly cooler conditions than Cabernet Sauvignon.
The PICAZO estate Merlot vineyard enjoys this cooler clime, about 200 feet above the floor of the Livermore Valley and about 600 feet above sea level. Thanks to moderate afternoon temperatures and cooling breezes, the grapes take a long-enough time to ripen ensuring full flavor and sugar development as well as soft, mature skin and seed tannins. Perfect climate and gravelly loam soils make these ten-year-old vines superb producers of Merlot at its finest – smooth and subtle, yet fruit-packed and full-bodied, enabling the Picazo family to keep its commitment to making truly outstanding Merlot.
An interesting correlation exists between the name Picazo and the word Merlot - they both make reference to blackbird. Picaza is the Castilian root form of Picazo and means blackbird. A derivative of the French word for Merlot, merle means young blackbird. Perhaps this is more than a noteworthy parallel. As is the case in Bordeaux, the PICAZO Vineyard was destined to produce world-class wine, and that is exactly what is happening in the Livermore Valley today.