It can be easy to dismiss Martha Clara Vineyards as a producer of fine wine. I mean, it’s the winery with the animals, the weddings and the concerts, right?

Yes. It has all of those. Wine isn’t necessarily at the center of everything at Martha Clara.

There is a wide swath of people that visits the winery every year and winemaker Juan Eduardo Micieli-Martinez has built a portfolio clearly meant to appeal to that diverse audience. But let’s not forget, there are plenty of fine wine lovers who visit Martha Clara too and to those folks, I would recommend Martha Clara Vineyards’ 2013 Estate Reserve Merlot ($38).

Made with grapes grown primarily in the “A blocks” of the winery’s Northville Vineyard, this blend of 90% merlot, 6% cabernet sauvignon and 4% petit verdot showcases what’s best about local merlot but also shows what small additions of other grapes can do to give merlot a boost of complexity and structure. It was aged for 18 months in both American and French oak barrels before bottling.

Also worth noting — the fruit was machine-picked in an era when “hand-picked” is too often treated like the only way to make good wine.

Black plums and black cherries dominate the nose, but I also found some dark chocolate and spice notes.

In its youth, this wine’s tannins are still quite grippy and chewy — but still don’t overwhelm a nicely concentrated black-and-blue fruit palate that is accented by notes of cocoa powder, sweet cedar and peppery spice.

Unlike so many “reserve” merlots, this wine isn’t beaten with oak flavors, though I suspect some of the tannins are oak tannins. This is a wine that should improve with time in your cellar — and before it’s released this summer.

Producer: Martha Clara Vineyards
North for of Long Island
ABV: 13%
90% merlot, 6% cabernet sauvignon, 4% petit verdot
Price: $38 (sample)
Rating: 90


This was also my Wine of the Week on 3/16/16