The Reserve & Reserva, History

At Merrill Cellars we are constantly in search of the finest grapes to make the finest wines. When it all comes together, we sometimes have that great opportunity to make extraordinary wines. These wines are sometimes images of classic wines around the world. Here are a few of those.

In 2010 our late harvested Viognier captured the flavors and aromas of the pears grown in the Rogue, and Condrieu, France.  We knew it would be exceptional, and thus it became our first bottled "Reserve" wine.

Meanwhile a 2009 Southern Oregon Pinot Noir was aging and as it kept getting closer to bottling we postponed week after week the bottling day because this wine continued to improve in the barrel. We believe not in forcing the wine to be what we want, but nurturing and listening to it as it develops. This Pinot Noir was grown at 2000 feet elevation, and has the character of a ten year old Morey St. Denis. We aged it for 29 months in french oak.  Then rested it for another 6 months before its release. I just tasted a bottle 11/15/17 and it was as good as ever!

Our 2010 Syrah "Reserve" was the first of our Cote-Rotie style Syrah's. After a huge rainfall caused many to harvest, the rains increased the mineral flavors in the fruit. We chose to let our grapes hang longer to hopefully ripen more and work through that earthiness in flavors and leave the mineral flinty flavors intact. We lucked out with the return of 100degree days in Indian Summer. Just before our harvest came the epiphany that these grapes now had a certain Northern Rhone style flavor quality that reminded me of Cote-Rotie Syrah. Ah-ha! I decided it was the direction the rains had taken us, and now one I'll never forget. We field harvested our adjacent Viognier to make a co-fermented 5% Viognier in our Syrah. Just like that famous village Cote-Rotie does. It worked beautifully. The next challenge was to not let it over age in the French oak and cover up this edgey style of wine. So after carefully tasting week by week from the 12th month on we decided it was just right, and bottled it after a mere 17 months in barrel. Funny how this changes wine so much. Now after 12 months in bottle, it is simply amazing, and still improving as each month goes by. I'm very proud of this style of Syrah as it is more food friendly than our previous 2008 Syrah that was in more of the jammy American style. Wine Spectator got it, and gave this 95% Syrah 5% Viognier a Classic Wine Rating of 90 points. 

The 2011/2012/2013 Syrah's have raised the bar. My best comparison so far is that they remind me of the elegant Northern Rhones of Hermitage and Cote Rotie. Classic dark stone fruit with a Viognier/Rotie mid -palette, and Hermitage spice finish. Once again beautiful acid balance. My hats off to Linda Donovan for crafting these so nicely. The 2013 Steelhead Run has all the flavors of the 2012 plus a sexy smoky flavor that's working very well right now.

Our first 2012 Tempranillo made Reserva style features 7% Garnacha blend, that gives it gorgeous aromatics, and softer tannins. We aged our Tempranillo Reserva in American Oak for two years, just as they do in Rioja Spain. Then two years in bottle, and ooh la la. Only bummer, it sold out very fast. The 2012 was really well liked by the public especially for its wonderful fruit flavors that ARE NOT hidden by too many tannins. So far the 2013 Tempranillo looks to be outstanding. It has a smoky quality to it. Oregon Wine Geeks rated it 94points. It's been our best seller this year. Think pulled bbq pork or Traeger meats.

Just Released...2016 Rioja style Tempranillo "Reserva". This one is the closest to the Rioja's I've ever tasted in the USA. I loved the 2012, but this one is the real deal. Beautiful fruit, and classic amount of tannin finish. That's what makes it a great Spanish food wine. 

I love a great Chardonnay. If you were lucky enough to drink some of our 2011 or 2014's Chardonnay Reserve you now know Oregon can grow more than just a thin crisp Chardonnay. I was told comparisons of Montrachet White Burgundy. With light oak, and delicious butter tones complimenting the great flavors of the fruit. After 18 months in Secret Oak barrels it surpassed our expectation of being good. It's one of Oregon's best.  

In 2014 we made two totally different Styles from the same grapes and wine. Made in stainless steel, for 12 months, then finished off with a kiss of oak for one to two months in neutral barrels. Served refridgerator cold its all stainless, serve room temperature its tropical, bananas, passion fruit.  The second had some Minnesota American oak and it became a much deeper meyer lemon citrus with a noticeable Vanilla. The more I drink it the more i like it. Amazing.


We just released the 2016 Oregon Chardonnay. It's more Chablis style than our 2015 Reserve that's Montrachet style. Wake up Oregon we can produce big fruit Chardonnays in the Rogue Valley, add an elegant kiss of oak, a little malolactic butter and boom, it's on a par with Napa's best. A finely balanced wine, and crowd pleaser too. the 2015 WON BEST of SHOW in 2017 Northwest Food and Wine Competition, and the 2016 is just as good, great.

Our 2012 and 2013 harvests of Reserve Syrah hail from the Steelhead Run Vineyards. This grower knows his stuff. Ron, Herb, and their Vineyard helped us create some great Northern Rhone Syrah. We did the field blend with Viognier. These wines feature the Hermitage clone, known for its spices and white pepper, with fruit flavors of black cherry and black plum. 2013 came with a smoky surprise. Big forest fires imparted a nice touch of smoke to this great style.

We are the Oregon kings of Viognier. Back by popular demand we are returning to a "Reserve" style 2011 and 2013, and now 2016 Viognier. These are aged in Secret Oak for 12-18 months creating a delicious buttery style, with elegant dryness and acidity. Great complexity.

We thought our Pinot Noir from 2014 was perfect, but then 2015 may have even surpassed it. We now have two different wines developing, both half Pommard and half 777 clones. We are loving the special Ferry Family Vineyard fruit. You will too! The 2014 and 2015 fruit were perfect. Now we have to patiently wait, allowing our wine to be its natural self. They will be different, but grand.

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