What happens behind the scenes to make merlot a standout? A good deal of napping.
That's according to Oded Shakked, the winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner -- the Longboard Vineyards, 2009 Dakine Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Merlot at $28.
"With this wine, most of my work is in the growing. . . . Behind the scenes as a winemaker, there is a good amount of napping," Shakked joked. "Once the grapes are picked, it's really more about having the patience to let the wine develop depth in the barrel."
What Shakked likes most about making merlot is that it "goes against the grain." He said he started making merlot after the film "Sideways" came out in 2004.
"Too many people who had never paid any attention to good merlot -- Saint Emilion, Pomerol in France or good California locations -- jumped on the merlot-is-garbage bandwagon" he said.
But, Shakked said, when merlot is grown for quality, it's one of the best full-bodied, lush, food-friendly wines.
"It's still my go-to filet mignon wine," he said.
Shakked said the most gratifying part of making merlot is "having total control, right after Mother Nature. . . . These are my grapes, grown right outside my kitchen window. I get to follow them from vineyard to bottle every step of the way."
Shakked founded Longboard Vineyards in 1998 while he was the winemaker at Healdsburg's J Vineyards. Today Longboard Vineyard's tasting room is in Healdsburg.
The winery, for Shakked, was mainly an outlet.
"I wanted to write fewer memos and attend fewer management meetings and spend more time growing and making wine," he said.
Shakked said he's well-suited to be a winemaker because "I really like napping. . . . Making balanced wines requires patience and calmness. That's where the naps come into play."