Jacks Sculpture at Blackbird Vineyards, Napa Valley. Tel. (707) 252.4444 Photographs by Randy James Beiriger
Blackbird Vineyards is a small batch artisanal winery producing premium wines. Merlot grapes grown in their 10-acre vineyard in Napa Valley's Oak Knoll district are the foundation of their right bank Bordeaux style wines. Exceptional local Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are the only other varietals used in Blackbird's proprietary blends. Inspired by owner Michael Polenske's appreciation of wines in the Pomerol style, winemaker Aaron Pott expertly crafts the five labels in Blackbird's portfolio.
Merlot fell out of favor in the mid-2000s, partly because it was roundly disparaged in the movie Sideways and also because, at the time, much of the Merlot being produced was of inferior quality. Less tannic in young wines than Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is not only a seductively smooth and aromatic varietal in its own right but can be used in blending remarkable wines, as Blackbird clearly demonstrates.
The 2010 Arriviste is a gorgeously colored rosé displaying an almost salmon hue. Unlike many rosés which are mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, Arriviste incorporates dark red fruit flavors of cherry and currant tempered with bright strawberry and peach by including 39% Merlot and 13% Cabernet Franc in the blend. The initial bright fruit flavors give way to a remarkably smooth, almost creamy mid-palate, leaving just enough acidity in the finish to allow a bright crisp finish with lingering fruit flavors.
Blackbird's 2008 Arise balances Merlot (42%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (38%) while Cabernet Franc (20%) rounds out the blend nicely with an enticing bouquet of dark fruits with hints of licorice, leather, pepper and tobacco. Dark cherry and plum are evident in the palate along with tones of chocolate and toffee. A light earthiness plays within the complex structure, dancing with the supple tannins and concluding with a clean, succinct, slightly velvety finish.