Merlot is suddenly uncool -- but the great ones still shine
Sunday, February 24,, 2005
San Francisco Chronicle
Pride Mountain Vineyards wines have a bipartisan appeal, having been served in the White House by both President Bush, a teetotaler, and President Clinton, the son of an alcoholic. The greatest challenge on the mountaintop estate Foley describes as a geological mosaic is the many different soil compositions on the slopes, but that variegation is also the source of the complex flavors and textures in the bottle.
His reds are big wines: dark, flavorful, heavy, with high concentrations of alcohol. The silky smooth 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, is 14.5 percent alcohol, with distinctive flavors that linger long after the liquid is swallowed.
Such wine is precisely what appeals to Robert M. Parker Jr. of the Wine Advocate, the industry's most influential voice, who called a Pride Cabernet "virtually perfect," and described a Merlot as "liquid Viagra."
The style of winemaking comes naturally to Foley. The Inglenook Charbono that provided him with that long ago epiphany was, he says, "a deep, extracted, powerful red." Today only 40 acres of Charbono are grown in California, and he buys enough of the grapes to produce 250 cases.
His wines fetch as much as $110 a bottle, the price of the Claret he began to craft a few years ago under his own Robert Foley label. What makes a wine worth so much?
"The fact," Foley answers at once, "that more people want it than we can supply. Pure and simple. People have religious experiences over these bottles of wine. It's a feeding frenzy for these wines."