Wine Advocate Issue 228
Our first perfect score from Robert Parker
An absolute epic wine is the 2013 Merlot. It is no wimpy wine either. A gorgeous nose including roasted espresso, melted black chocolate, blackberry, plum and cassis offers an exceptional set of aromatics. The wine has beautiful ripeness, headiness and a long finish of close to 45+ seconds. This is a beauty of terrific purity, texture and personality. Few California Merlots will ever be capable of equaling this. Drink it over the next 25-30+ years.
An unapologetically plump and flamboyant style that offers pure pleasure. Blackberry and spicy toast aromas lead to rich, complex flavors of black cherry and mocha, with a hint of dry herb. The finish lasts forever. Drink now through 2020.
One of the most beautiful wines of the year, the 2011 Merlot is endowed with tremendous energy...which simply proves just how great this overlooked vintage is in the right spots. Graphite, smoke, tar, licorice and plum notes meld into the finish. This is a knockout wine from Pahlmeyer.
A firm core of tannins provides the underlying structure for the 2010 Merlot. This juicy, dark, yet wonderfully sophisticated and polished wine impresses for its balance and overall sense of harmony. Hugely promising. Layers of fruit flow effortlessly to the long, voluptuous finish.
Plush and richly structured, but with a dense, structured core, offering aromas of red currant and toasty mocha that lead to complex flavors of black cherry and Asian spice. Loamy, ripe tannins sneak in on the finish.
Good deep red-ruby. Blackberry and licorice aromas perked up by violet and spices. Juicy and moderately deep, with dark fruit flavors complicated by tobacco and cedar. Not a fat style for this bottling but boasts a solid acid/tannin spine and very good balance--not to mention fruit intensity.
One of the finest Merlots being made in Napa... This sumptuous wine offers beautiful melted chocolate, cocoa, and espresso notes intermixed with black cherry, plum, fig, and blackberry fruit. This opulent, full-bodied, sexy, prodigious California Merlot should give Kapcsandy’s Roberta’s Reserve a run for its money over the next 15-20 years.
Pahlmeyer’s offering remains one of the classic examples of just how great Merlot can be in Napa. The 2006 Merlot exhibits sweet chocolate, mocha, cola, black cherry, and plum aromas and flavors as well as full body, a sumptuous, dense texture, and no hard edges. The beautifully integrated acidity, tannin, and wood result in a hedonistic, mouthfilling, luscious Merlot.
The 2005 Merlot is looking sensational, and far better than I thought last year... The wine reveals distinctive black cherry and berry notes intermixed with chocolate, mocha, caramel, and scorched earth. The wine is full-bodied, fleshy, but has underlying acidity and a long, layered finish. This wine can be drunk now or cellared for another 15+ years.
The 2004 Merlot reveals Pomerol-like aromatics of caramelized red and black fruits, toffee and spice as well as a big, creamy, opulent texture, and a full-bodied mouthfeel with no hard edges. The wine’s saturated ruby/purple color reveals no lightness at the edge. Wonderfully dense, rich, full, and incredibly sexy and long, this beauty is everything a Merlot should be. Enjoy it over the next 6-8 years.
Jayson Pahlmeyer has done as good a job with Merlot as anybody in Northern California.
The 2003 Merlot is one of the top three or four Merlots in California. A huge nose of melted chocolate, roasted coffee, black cherry, and charcoal jumps from the glass of this full-bodied, opulent, sexy Merlot. It is a delicious, savory, heady wine.
The 2002 Merlot is the ultimate Merlot in terms of pure, seductive prowess. It possesses a dense purple color in addition to a gorgeous perfume of espresso roast, melted fudge, black currants, cherries and subtle smoke as well as earth, great intensity, and full-bodied opulence, in a voluptuous, juicy, unctuously textured style that cascades over the palate with no hard edges. This is haute couture of Merlot. Moreover, while it has always been open and accessible, this 2002 will last for another 15-20 years given its concentration.
Pahlmeyer has long been one of my favorite wineries for both their red wines and Chardonnays. Both the 2002 red cuvees, made by Erin Green for proprietor Jayson Pahlmeyer, are performing fabulously. These wines typically have tremendously long lives, as evidenced by some older vintages in my cellar that are continuing to age beautifully. One can make a strong argument that Pahlmeyer produces the finest Merlot in California.
This Merlot should convert all the doubters of this varietal in Napa Valley, as it is consistently one of the top two or three Merlots made in California. At ten years of age, the 2001 confirms what an extraordinary Merlot producer he is. It transcends the category and puts to shame most of the Merlots that emerge from the Golden State. A dense plum/purple color is accompanied by a beautifully sweet nose of melted chocolate, creme de cassis, cherry pie, earth and spice. It possesses a voluptuous texture, brilliant purity and equilibrium, and a chewy, succulent finish. This sexy, complex, full-bodied 2001 Merlot is just hitting full maturity where it should remain for another 10-15+ years, 2011-2026. Bravo!
Impressive dark ruby color. Superripe aromas of chocolate syrup, mocha, tobacco and smoke, with a meaty nuance. Fat, thick and rich, with roasted currant and truffle flavors. Extremely lush and full in the mouth, but could use a bit more clarity and refinement. Finishes quite long, with smooth tannins.
A mouthful of wine that packs in lots of rich, deep, plush and concentrated flavors, with tiers of currant, blackberry, raspberry and wild berry fruit. Well-integrated tannins smooth out the finish.
The 1998 Merlot is light, but it is undoubtedly one of the finest Merlots produced in this irregular vintage... Full-bodied, thick, and juicy, with low acidity as well as melted chocolate, cherry, smoke, and toast aromas and flavors.
Pahlmeyer's 1997 Merlot may be the finest Merlot ever produced in California... It offers gorgeous smoky, black cherry liqueur aromas mixed with melted fudge. The wine is unctuously-textured, super-concentrated, low in acidity, rich, and multilayered. This is a spectacular, hedonistic effort to drink over the next 15-20 years.
The wine is opaque black/purple-colored, with a knock-out nose of plums, black cherries, chocolate, raspberries, licorice, and toasty new oak. Viscous in the mouth, with superb purity, this is a riveting, mind-boggling Merlot that sets a new reference point for this varietal in California. It can be drunk now, but has the potential to last for 15 or more years.
I do not believe it is an exaggeration to say that Pahlmeyer's Merlot is now the finest being produced in California. One might quibble over other styles of Merlot, but no producer achieves more complexity, flavor, and thrills per sip than Pahlmeyer. The 1995 Merlot is an awesomely-endowed, full-bodied, pedal to the metal style of Merlot with great richness in addition to a knock-out nose of blackberry, raspberry, mocha, and smoky aromas that soar from the glass. The wine has a sweet attack (from its formidable glycerin and extract level, not sugar), full body, extraordinary layers of concentrated fruit, and a blockbuster finish. Amazingly, the wine, like its 1996 counterpart, possesses gorgeously integrated acidity, tannin, and alcohol. Can California Merlot get any better than this? This wine will drink well when released, and last for 15-20 years.
The just-released 1994 Merlot is a terrific example of this varietal, and one of the finest I have ever tasted from California. The wine reveals a dense purple color, followed by a super fragrant nose of chocolate, mocha, toast, and black-cherry fruit. Full-bodied, but not heavy, this expansive, chewy, opulently textured wine should drink well for 15 or more years. With the assistance of consulting oenologist Helen Turley, the Pahlmeyer wines have emerged as some of the finest in northern California.
The 1993 Merlot displays plenty of toasty, vanillin-scented new oak, ripe, concentrated berry fruit, medium to full body, an intriguing, nicely textured, expansive palate, and a round, generous finish. It is a delicious, succulent Merlot with enough structure to carry it over the next 7-8 years, perhaps longer. As a postscript, after tasting the 1993 Merlot, I mistakenly left it open for a week. After discovering the opened bottle, I decided to taste it again, and astonishingly, the wine was still remarkably rich without any trace of oxidation - amazing! I hope I have not under-estimated this wine. Bravo to Jayson Pahlmeyer for once again turning out distinctive, complex wines of thrilling quality.