Big, structured, and unexpectedly thrilling
We’re not making merlot for the faint of heart. Merlot is one of the world’s greatest red varietals. It can be big, supple and complex, but coaxing all those notes out of the grape is a challenge, which is why it’s often maligned or misunderstood as a soft, generic red. We want to showcase a wholly different side of Merlot. We want to show that even a 100% merlot can be as big, as textured and as exciting to drink as Cabernet Sauvignon and bring its own unique voice to the table.
Tenor Merlot is full throttle and exciting, but still balanced and elegant. It presents with both power and suppleness, like a slap with a velvet glove. The Merlot is more structured than our Cabernet Sauvignon, which focuses on texture and thickness, but it’s every bit as rich. We’re careful to extract finer, drier, silkier tannins to ensure the wine is big but not overly tannic. Your first smell and your first sip will make it clear that there is a lot going on, and if you’re caught off guard a bit, that’s by design.
Merlot loves Washington’s climate. The unique sites and growing season enable us to bring out a little bit of everything that great merlot is known for. We get enough heat and exposure to develop great ripeness and freshness, but our long season, cool nights and large diurnal shifts enable us to build great concentration and flavor intensity as well. We think of it as big and rich meets lean and racy.
This is a merlot that you can hold onto for 8, 10, or 12 years and still be thrilling to drink. Drink it from 3-8 years to get the most of the youthful jazzy fruit, but enjoy it long past that as well, as the fruit softens a bit and allows the secondary notes and seductive aromatics to play a more dominant role. Expect ripe fruit, black currant, raspberry, smoky strawberry, with a touch of herbs and potpourri. Tenor Merlot is exuberant, sultry, always exciting to drink, and anything but boring.
Selecting the Right Vineyard
Merlot is one of the few varietals in which we aggressively restrict yields. Merlot vines will hang as much fruit as they can, so in most cases, we’re pushing the threshold to maximize concentration and flavor intensity. We’re meticulous about site choice, soil and exposure, but we source our merlot from several vineyards. This enables us to create a wine that has it all: power, suppleness, texture, smoky fruit, intense aromatics.
Stillwater Creek VineyardStillwater Creek is a 235 acre site on the Royal Slope of the Frenchman Hills, planted in 2000. The proprietors bring over 30 years of grape growing experience in both California and Washington. Their fruit contributes high tones, tannin intensity and color.
The Hedges Family has long been an icon and a champion of the Red Mountain Viticultural Area in Washington. The fruit we source from them is everything you want in Washington merlot: deep dark flavors, density and mid palate.
Red Mountain Vineyard
Another storied Columbia Valley producer, these grapes deliver plush smoky red fruit, volume and texture, along with fine tannins.
This Walla Walla estate vineyard has gained an outstanding reputation with Washington wine producers. Their grapes provide structure, red and black fruit and freshness to Tenor’s powerhouse merlot.
Tenor Winemaking Process
Sorting and SelectionsAll the grapes are cluster sorted then destemmed and berry sorted with our automated system. Sorting is aggressive, but less so than some other Tenor wines because the few bits of stem actually add a nice perfume and complexity to the merlot.
FermentationThe merlot is traditionally fermented in a combination of stainless and concrete, predominantly concrete. The concrete ferments more slowly and at cooler average temperature, which adds a bit more depth, texture and layering of flavors.
CellaringThe free-run juice is barreled into our proprietary barrels and two other coopers to enhance length and perfume. We actually use slightly different barrels for the different lots and mix and match to enhance the strengths of each vineyard.
BlendingWe carefully (and blindly) evaluate the aromatic profile of each barrel and then the palate presentation when blending to create the specific and consistent profile we’re looking for. In the case of the merlot, blending is followed by another 8-9 months in barrel before bottling.
BottlingMerlot is bottled between 17-19 months. We bottle sooner in cooler years to capture the ripe fruit and later in warmer years to maximize texture and intensity.