As I have said in the past, there is a special place in my liver for Nickel & Nickel.
About Nickel & Nickel
We ‘stumbled’ upon Nickel & Nickel by driving past them about 100 times, and then finally after seeing them profiled on “In Wine Country” tv show, we gave them a call. Man am I glad that we did. They are just simply something special.
Established in 1997 by the late Gil Nickel, who started the famous Far Niente Winery, and his nephew Erik Nickel – who managed the restoration of the historic Queen-Anne Style Sullenger farm house at the center of the main property in Oakville. I won’t gush endlessly about them much more, but it is important to understand what sets N&N apart, beyond quality and plain awesomeness.
N&N focuses on single vineyard, single varietal wines. This means that unlike the other 99% of the wine that comes from CA or even the Napa Valley, there is ZERO blending that occurs. Everything comes from ONE vineyard location, and is ONE varietal (ie Cabernet Sauvignon). They don’t truck in grapes from the central coast to ‘cut’ their wines with, and no adding in other types of grapes to balance a wine out. These wines truly represent what the varietal and the location have to offer.
Merlot is a funny thing. It’s velvety smooth, fruity with decent tannins, and overall a super-approachable wine. Merlot suffer(ed) from 2 problems, and now has 3.
- Merlot is TOO approachable and friendly. It doesn’t have any distinguishing characteristics beyond “everyone’s best friend”.
- Merlot isn’t Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Miles, the arrogant prick, from “Sideways”.
After “Sideways” came out, an endless parade of purple-toothed drunken morons stumbled into tasting room after tasting room, quoting the movie Sideways about how they are ‘not drinking a f*cking Merlot’. So witty.
When you enter into the “beginning” of Napa Valley, into the Oak Knoll district, one of the first wineries you see is Trefethen. In an attempt to curb the wit, Trefethen erected a sign that states “Clearly, Miles had not yet tasted Napa Valley Merlot!”
Needless to say, if they had tasted this Merlot, even the drunkards would know the difference.
God Dammit, I love Howell Mountain. The wines that come off this mountain are huge, extracted, and powerful.
Howell Mountain is located in the Vaca Mountains on the northeast side of Napa Valley and overlooks the town of St. Helena, California. Most vineyards in the Howell Mountain AVA are planted between 1,400 feet (430 m) and 2,200 feet (670 m) above sea level, well above the elevations in Napa Valley that are most affected by the cool fog and winds from San Pablo Bay.
From the ground up, soil can have as much of an effect on the variety and intensity of grapes as the weather. This is clearly evident on Howell Mountain, where there are two main soil types. The first consists of decomposed volcanic ash, called “tufa”, and the second is red clay that is high in iron. Because both soil types are nutrient poor, they stress the vines, producing intense wines from small clusters and berries. In the end, the altitude, and thin, rocky, and dry soil conditions create wines with firm structure, incredible varietal intensity, and excellent aging properties.
The 2006 Vogt Merlot is richer than its predecessor. The sweet, briary fruits and currant flavors mix with the earth and tobacco notes that are typical of this site. This wine was aged in a bit more French oak than the 2005 and the cedar and vanilla offer a nice complement to the fruit. Its Howell Mountain roots are definitely present as this wine has a thick, coating mouthfeel from start to finish. Although you can enjoy this wine today, it is sure to evolve and develop for those with a little patience.