Irish Monkey Cellars
2006 Merlot - Lovall Valley NAPA
$24 / 750 ml.

The lovely hidden Lovall valley is officially in the Napa County, but is only accessible through a single road starting near the center of Sonoma! One takes the "right turn" at the town center, travelling down until Old Winery Road, then left. Lovall Valley road crosses it shortly after, and you only need to "follow it to the top of the hill" to get there. As you come out of the uppermost woodland, suddenly a broad gentle valley opens up, covered from edge to edge with vineyards and their owners' houses.

Like so many of Napa's microclimates, Lovall is special in that it has particularly enrichened soil from having been a giant turkey ranch before the grapes ever went in. It has cool to cold evenings like Howell mountain, but is largely free from fogs and mists. The grapes produced are tiny with deep color and potentially powerful tannins. Yet, this is the magic of the valley: the tartness and sharpness of the wine is preserved even as the very long growing season builds the sugars that will feed the yeasts. Very brisk wine indeed!

Our lovely Merlot comes from the Sharon and Alex Ivanoff estate. A mere 2 acres is planted, all meticulously cultivated and carefully watched for pests, irrigation and ripeness. We pick in the earliest morning, and actually crush in the vineyard, an unusual practice that was once the norm but now the exception. This method allows the bins to carry the full load, and keeps the oxidation to a minimum.

Merlot is probably the most versatile red, able to accompany appetizers, cheeses, sturdy soups, well rounded salads, all nature of fowl and of course the lighter lamb, beef and especially pork dishes. Certainly there are for each of these wines that may be more well tuned, but no wine except Merlot as effortlessly compliments the foods without competing. If wines were restaurant staff, then Merlot would be the perfect Maitre'd ... invisible except when needed, instantly attentive and informative, yet without his or her own opinion.


Temperature Cool, almost at a Rose coolness The cooler serving will accentuate the ripe plum, red rasberry and wild boysenberry flavors, allowing the palate to adapt to the intensity gracefully. As the glass warms, rich tones of oak, blueberry and even a hint of apple crisp come forth.
Glass Broad and Tall There is no doubt that the largest bowled glasses should be reserved for the most elusive and reserved wines. Merlot's lovely complex but muted aromatic nature benefits from large-bowl stemware. As with our other recommendations, please ensure you are using thin-walled stemware!
Transition to

Pinot Noir
Cabernet Sauvignon
Rhone Styled Syrah

Merlot sets the stage for all but the most powerful wines in the Red family. If you are thinking of bringing forth a great Petit Sirah or Cabernet Franc or big hearty Zinfandel ... these would work too, but they tend to mark the "end of the series". A more mid-serious wine makes more sense.