Wine of the Week: Dry Creek Vineyard, 2016 Meritage

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When making a blend, it’s endless tinkering with painstaking decisions. Bringing the best wine forward calls for winemakers to draw upon their innate duality as scientist and artist; it’s where the pragmatist meets the dreamer.

Winemaker Tim Bell is the pragmatic dreamer behind our wine of the week winner –– Dry Creek Vineyard, 2016 Meritage, Dry Creek Valley Red Wine at $30.

What makes this meritage a standout is its great complexity coupled with its supple texture. It has aromas and flavors of cassis, black cherry, boysenberry and cocoa. It’s seamless, with a current of spice running through it. It’s gorgeous.

“The possible blend combinations for meritage are pretty endless and open,” Bell said. “The only rules are to use two or more of the traditional grape varieties of Bordeaux, and to not use more than 90% of any given variety. My approach is to start with a base blend and then add other wine lots to it to fill it out.”

Bell decided to make a merlot-based blend with cab franc his “secret weapon” to bring out the best flavors in the meritage. The composite of the blend is 65% merlot; 16% cab franc; 10% malbec; 5% petit verdot; and 4% cabernet sauvignon.

“I think my strength as a winemaker is always striving to make each blend just a little better,” Bell said. “‘How about if we try just a little bit of this particular lot, or that one?’”

Bell, 54, studied at UC Davis, graduating with a degree in Fermentation Science with honors in 1994.

“My interest in wine began when I was 18 years old and started working at a wine, liquor and craft beer retailer in San Diego County,” Bell said. “I didn’t grow up in a family steeped in wine, but the romance, mystery and history of wine quickly drew me in and made me want to know more.”

Bell’s curiosity ultimately coaxed him to become a winemaker.

“The dream of actually making wine was just not in the realm of possibility,” Bell explained. “I had been raised by some very practical, down-to-earth parents. But then I read a magazine article where Zelma Long and Richard Arrowood were interviewed about how to get into winemaking. It inspired me to dream, and helped me understand the practical steps I could take towards what seemed like a wild goal.”

The pragmatic dreamer said “I decided to go for it.”

You can reach Wine writer Peg Melnik at or 707-521-5310.

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