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Wine of the week: the Chelsea Goldschmidt merlot

This week’s blind tasting

Chelsea Goldschmidt, 2019 Salmon’s Leap, Dry Creek Valley Merlot, 14.5%, $25, 4 stars. An elegant merlot with generous flavors of blackberry and pomegranate, with an undercurrent of cracked black pepper. Balanced, with bright acidity. Supple texture, with a lingering finish. The budget-savvy merlot edged out its competition because of the caliber of this merlot at this price. Well-crafted.

Matanzas Creek 2017 Keyes Vineyard Napa Valley Merlot, 14.5%, $70, 4 stars. A tasty merlot with notes of blackberry, boysenberry and forest floor. Seamless texture. Lovely.

Pride Mountain Vineyards, 2018 Napa/Sonoma Vintner Select Merlot, 14.4%, $92, 4 stars. Earthy, with notes of black cherry, plum and black pepper. Supple tannins. Lingering finish. Impressive.

Decoy, 2019 California Merlot, 13.9%, $25, 3.5 stars. Weighted to red fruit, this merlot has built-up notes of raspberry and cherry, with plum playing backup. Supple texture. Lingering finish. Pretty.

St. Francis, 2018 Sonoma County Merlot, 14.8%, $22. 3.5 stars. A merlot with good structure. Aromas and flavors of blackberry, plum and bittersweet chocolate. Subtle note of cracked black pepper. Nice length and smart.

Nick Goldschmidt said he and his 29-year-old daughter, who he named his Chelsea label after, are both perfectionists.

“Being a perfectionist means the wine has to be seamless and lush,” said Goldschmidt, referring to the style of merlot they’ve been working on together. “Chelsea loves cabernet, so making the merlot in the full style is what she likes.”

The two are behind our wine of the week winner — the Chelsea Goldschmidt, 2019 Salmon’s Leap, Dry Creek Valley Merlot, 14.5%, $25. It’s an elegant merlot with generous flavors of blackberry and pomegranate, with an undercurrent of cracked black pepper. Balanced, it has bright acidity and a supple texture, with a lingering finish. The budget-savvy Chelsea edged out its competitors because of the caliber of this merlot for this price. It’s well-crafted.

Other tasty merlots on the market include: Matanzas Creek 2017 Keyes Vineyard Napa Valley Merlot, 14.5%, $70; Pride Mountain Vineyards, 2018 Napa/Sonoma Vintner Select Merlot, 14.4%, $92; Decoy, 2019 California Merlot, 13.9%, $25; and St. Francis, 2018 Sonoma County Merlot, 14.8%, $22.

As for the winning Chelsea merlot, Goldschmidt said it hails from Salmon’s Leap, an organic vineyard in front of his Healdsburg home.

“We farm organically because I care about the dogs, the cats and the kids,” he said. “It doesn’t come without its issues. ... The number of bugs in the vineyard has had a massive change. Good guys and bad guys, but through time the bad guys show up later and later each year.”

What some may not know about merlot, Goldschmidt said, is it’s still the most popular varietal in the world.

“Petrus and Haut-Brion are not bad,” Goldschmidt said, referring to two esteemed French wine estates known for producing stellar wines from merlot grapes.

When it comes to American turf, the winemaker said, people may be surprised to learn that merlot can thrive in Dry Creek Valley.

“Dry Creek is known for zin, but where we live it’s too cold for zin,” Goldschmidt said. “Merlot needs a cooler climate, and I have really learned more recently how true that is in Okanagan (a region in British Columbia). Where we live it’s clearly too cold for cabernet, just like zin. It’s a Goldilocks vineyard. Not too hot, not too cold, not too free-draining … just right.”

The winemaker said he learned, after working with the varietal carménère in Chile that had similar soils, that merlot in the Salmon’s Leap vineyard could be picked later during harvest.

“Picking the merlot grapes later in the season and then extracting the heck out of them means we can make a cabernet drinker’s merlot,” he said.

The vineyard has the perfect soils — sandy loam and clay — to produce seamless merlot, Goldschmidt said.

“But the trick is to (produce merlot) that also has tension and brightness,” he said. “It’s easy to drink one glass, but the key is to get people to enjoy the bottle. I think we do that with this vineyard.”

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com and 707-521-5310.

This week’s blind tasting

Chelsea Goldschmidt, 2019 Salmon’s Leap, Dry Creek Valley Merlot, 14.5%, $25, 4 stars. An elegant merlot with generous flavors of blackberry and pomegranate, with an undercurrent of cracked black pepper. Balanced, with bright acidity. Supple texture, with a lingering finish. The budget-savvy merlot edged out its competition because of the caliber of this merlot at this price. Well-crafted.

Matanzas Creek 2017 Keyes Vineyard Napa Valley Merlot, 14.5%, $70, 4 stars. A tasty merlot with notes of blackberry, boysenberry and forest floor. Seamless texture. Lovely.

Pride Mountain Vineyards, 2018 Napa/Sonoma Vintner Select Merlot, 14.4%, $92, 4 stars. Earthy, with notes of black cherry, plum and black pepper. Supple tannins. Lingering finish. Impressive.

Decoy, 2019 California Merlot, 13.9%, $25, 3.5 stars. Weighted to red fruit, this merlot has built-up notes of raspberry and cherry, with plum playing backup. Supple texture. Lingering finish. Pretty.

St. Francis, 2018 Sonoma County Merlot, 14.8%, $22. 3.5 stars. A merlot with good structure. Aromas and flavors of blackberry, plum and bittersweet chocolate. Subtle note of cracked black pepper. Nice length and smart.

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

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