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Day 3 – Estate Series Merlot 2020

Day 2 for the 6-Bottle Advent Calendars

Happy Saturday from Conviction Ridge Vineyard. This is our estate vineyard, and home to our 38-year-old Merlot vines. Today we present our 2020 Unsanctioned Series Merlot, a powerful, age-worthy wine. This is the third vintage of our 100% estate-grown Merlot, and we are already happy with the evolution of this wine. We are learning that patience is required for these old vines, and also for the wines produced from them! For those of you not familiar with the location of our vineyard and winery, we are in the heart of the Okanagan Valley overlooking Skaha Lake. At the north end of the lake is Penticton, and at the south end is Okanagan Falls. We are situated on a bench about 100m above the lake, with an east-facing aspect. Why does this matter?

Bordeaux varietals typically like long, hot days with intense afternoon sun. This is best achieved in a south or west-facing vineyard, which helps the grapes ripen in terms of both sugar and phenolics. With an east-facing aspect, you get more of the morning sun, which normally isn’t as intense and, depending on the topography, you lose the daylight earlier.  At our Conviction Ridge vineyard in Kaleden, we sort of have the best of both worlds!  We are on the west side of the valley, which means we get a great amount of morning sun. But due to the contours of our site, we are actually on a bit of a knoll, with both east-facing and west-facing slopes. On top of that, there is a saddle in the mountains to the west of us that is in the arc of the sun during the summer months which gives us an extra hour or so of daylight. Those are significant factors that help our Merlot ripen and produce a very distinctive style.

What we typically achieve with our Merlot is full sugar ripeness (we normally harvest around 24.5 – 25 Brix) with elevated acidity and big tannins. Those are the critical factors needed for a wine to be able to age. What we’ve learned so far with our Merlot is that extended barrel time really helps manage the tannins. If you’ve had the opportunity to try our 2018 or 2019 Merlot, the tannins are a bit grippy. By giving the 2020 vintage almost 3 years in barrel, the wine went into bottle in a much more relaxed state. It still has great aging potential, and we would definitely recommend decanting for a couple of hours if you are cracking it now.

For today’s suggested food pairing, we’re going with a classic bistro-style dish: Flat iron steak with a blue cheese-chive butter.  For us Canucks, a flat iron steak is known as the top blade cut.  We’ve also included the recipe we paired with our 2019 Merlot in last year’s calendar: Boeuf Bourguignon. This particular dish requires a monumental effort to pull off, but it’s worth it!

A nice juicy Merlot cluster!

Winemaking Notes

The Merlot vines at our Conviction Ridge vineyard in Kaleden were planted in 1985 and produce naturally low yields at less than 3 tons per acre. The resulting wines are powerful, concentrated and ideally suited for long-term cellaring.  The 2020 vintage was aged for 32 months in 30% new French oak barrels.  Bottled unfined and lightly filtered.

Only 125 cases produced.

Tasting Notes
A bold red wine with depth, concentration, length and complexity. A nose of cassis with earthy undertones of forest floor and tobacco leaf. The entry is firm with lively tannins and acidity that persists. Flavours of cassis, plum, blackberry and black cherry, while the mid-palate offers mocha, cedar, and a hint of vanilla. On the finish you’ll find subtle notes of cinnamon, cloves and cracked black pepper. This is a structured wine that will reward some patience in the cellar.

Food Pairings
In its youth, this is most definitely a food wine. Suggestions include smoked brisket, braised ribs, and grilled ribeye steaks.

Wine Specs

Vintage 2020
Appellation Okanagan Valley VQA
Vineyards Conviction Ridge Vineyard, Kaleden
Acid 5.4 g/L
pH 3.8
Residual Sugar 1.9 g/L
Alcohol % 13.7
Production: 125 cases