All About 2021 Merlot with Bryan Kays

February 22, 2024

Trefethen Family Vineyards’ Winemaker, Bryan Kays

A Q&A With Bryan Kays

All About 2021 Merlot

Join Bryan Kays, the visionary behind our exceptional wines, as he guides you through a fascinating journey into the 2021 vintage of Merlot.

2021 Vintage Update:

“2021 was a lovely vintage overall. Coming off a dry 2020, we were hoping for a wet winter to recharge the soil. However, 2021 turned out to be another dry year, and the driest year in our history. We took those conditions into account as the vines began growing, keeping cover crop low and focusing the vines’ energy early. Unexpectedly, the weather throughout the year was mild and temperate, creating comfortable windows for all our viticultural activity. As harvest approached, the weather pattern held, allowing the grapes to fully ripen in near-ideal conditions. The harvest took just over 7 weeks. The Merlot harvest was 2 weeks from start to finish, kicking off about halfway through the entire harvest period.”

2021 Merlot Tasting Notes:

“There are many signatures of a classic Trefethen Merlot. The nose shows plum, cherry, black pepper, and lavender. The palate is bright, fresh, and youthful with spicy tannin throughout.”

What Bryan Likes About Merlot:

“Merlot is one of the five Bordeaux varieties that we have on our property (the other 4 being Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot). Since these varieties are often planted together, they have matured and mutated together. Merlot was the first variety that vividly illustrated the value of planting the full Bordeaux group of varieties. In a standard vintage, Merlot is the fleshiest of these varieties, offering a generous mid-palate. It is versatile both as a standalone variety and when blended in small quantities with other varieties.

Merlot has also become something of an underdog in the red wine world. It has been a fun challenge to make a wine deserving the ‘Merlot’ label, showing what Merlot, on the right soil, can do.

Similar to our history with other varieties that we added in the 1980s and 1990s, we originally planted Merlot as a blending component. However, our Oak Knoll District soils, with a mix of gravel and clay, are extremely well suited to Merlot. After working with the variety for a few years, we were very excited to begin bottling Merlot as a varietal to showcase its unique expression from our property.”

Key Characteristics of Merlot:

“Merlot typically ripens in the middle of the season, after Cabernet Franc but before Cabernet Sauvignon, and often overlapping with Malbec. When ready for harvest, the Merlot berry often has a mix of cherry and strawberry flavors with some spicy greens in the background. In the winery, Merlot requires patience. The color and aroma typically take time to extract from the skins. Our extraction time is often around 2 weeks long, with gentle and short pumpovers during that period. After that, we move the wine to standard barriques and use approximately 1/3 new French oak barrels in the aging.”

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