Strata Vineyards2002 Merlot
Every day I come across a new Napa Valley brand I’ve never heard of – and I cover this appellation like a tarpaulin at Yankee Stadium in the fall. I discovered Strata, a little producer in the Oak Knoll District last March; and tasted this Merlot eight months before its recent release.
It’s in the marketplace now and it’s one of the better Merlots I’ve tasted in a while. At $34, it’s a good buy from one of the country’s top (albeit new) AVAs.
The wine is very dark in color, but on the palate, it’s pretty, soft, with lots o’ aromatics. The fruit is ripe and sweet (the alcohol is a high 14.8 percent, but it’s fairly well integrated), and is followed by mouth-cleansing acidity (thank goodness). The tannins are ample, but soft enough for drinking now. But you’ll be rewarded by holding onto it for say, up to eight years.
Only 1,400 cases were produced by the grower John Johnson and Dave Cofran, who made the wine. The latter was the GM at Silver Oak for 20 years before starting his own brand. The oak regimen was half each of French and American, with only 30 percent being new with the rest once-used. The wine was aged two years.
The vineyard is located on Orchard Avenue just north of the city of Napa. This is a relatively cool part of the valley with soils very similar to those of Carneros. Cofran says of it, it’s “a perfect location for early ripening varieties such as Merlot.”
Reviewed January 3, 2006 by Alan Goldfarb.
Alan Goldfarb has been writing about and reviewing wine for 17 years. His reviews have been published in the St. Helena Star, San Jose Mercury, San Francisco Examiner, Decanter, and Wine Enthusiast, among others. Not once has he used a point system, star system, or an iconic symbol to quantify a wine. What counts in Mr. Goldfarb’s criteria when judging a wine is: how it tastes in the glass; is it well-constructed; its food compatibility; and presence of redeeming regional attributes.