Founded in 1857 as California's first premium winery, Buena Vista, under the direction of winemaker Jeff Stewart, is a leader in cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah. Straddling Sonoma County in the southern end of the Carneros appellation, the 523-acre Ramal Vineyard Estate is broken up into 167 small blocks, with 21 different clones of Chardonnay and 13 different clones of Pinot Noir, and is set along rolling south-facing hillsides overlooking the San Pablo Bay. The Ramal Vineyard is the crown jewel of all Carneros.
Most winemakers will agree that cool-climate wines like Pinot Noir are the most difficult to produce. And most will agree that Jeff Stewart does so with unparalleled success. Jeff comes to Buena Vista with over 15 years of achievement in cool-climate viticulture and his focus on gentle handling of the grapes and temperature moderation produces wines with complexity, character and depth.
Learn More About Merlot
Merlot (mehr-LOW) No second fiddle
Merlot is coming back into its own. High popularity led to mass production, which then led to a backlash towards the variety (remember Miles in Sideways?). But passionate Merlot producers, and of course the right bank of Bordeaux, continued to produce quality versions of this grape. Merlot remains the principle grape of top chateaux in St-Émilion
(think Petrus), not to mention its growth in popularity and quality in California and Washington State.
Merlot flourishes both as a single varietal and as a blending agent. It's known
for adding softness to the austere Cabernet
Sauvignon in Bordeaux blends in France, California and elsewhere. Chateau
Petrus, perhaps one of the most expensive and sought-after wines of the world,
is almost 100% Merlot. The grape exudes soft fruit flavors of plum and blackberry,
but it's versatile - the style can change depending on the climate and soil.
Merlot from mountain areas are usually more Cabernet like, with stronger structure
and tannins, while Merlot from valley floor areas and clay-based soils are opulent, with velvelty texture, often approachable when young.
Summing it up
Successful Sites: Bordeaux, California, Washington State, Chile
plum, cherry, blackberry, spice, raspberry
Learn More About Carneros, California
Technically a part of Napa Valley, the Carneros region straddles both Sonoma & Napa counties. It's the Napa region closest to the San Francisco peninsula and the San Pablo Bay, which is instrumental in controlling the climate of the area. The winds from the San Pablo bay create a cool weather pattern ideal for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Carneros are delicate, yet complex, with firm structure and acidity. And while the pair are the most popular varieties of the region, some winemakers have branched out, particularly with Syrah. The cool climate Syrah of Carneros is well structured and stylistically similar to Syrah from the Northern Rhone, though often fuller-bodied.