The Evolution of Twomey Merlot

Oct 23, 2014

By Daniel Baron, Director of Winemaking

As I was walking through one of the blocks of Merlot at our Soda Canyon Ranch the other day to observe the progression of fruit color in preparation for our 16th harvest, I was musing on how our approach to growing and making this wine has progressed over the last 15 years. And for that matter, how many miles of Merlot vineyards I’ve walked over those years.

It began for me in October of 1981 when I first met the legendary winemaker Jean- Claude Berrouet in a Merlot vineyard in Pomerol. The vintage I spent working in the vineyards and cellars of Pomerol and Saint-Émilion instilled in me a love of Merlot and a belief in its inherent quality as one of the great wines of the world. In 1999, the Duncan Family and I seized the opportunity to apply old world techniques and sensibilities to making a new world Merlot and Twomey was born. In the 15 years since then, our block selection has changed and we’ve even planted some new vines, but the biggest change has been the application of precision viticulture in refining our approach to pruning, irrigation, canopy management and maturity assessment in the vineyard.

It was exciting to reunite professionally with Jean-Claude in 2012 (we had remained close friends) after a 20-year hiatus. We had both evolved in our winemaking and it was interesting (and humbling at times) to compare notes. I would say that the main difference in the winery is a less oxidative approach to winemaking. Jean-Claude feels that climate change has had a big effect in Bordeaux, so they have had to adapt. And we have observed that California Merlot has a higher pH than early-eighties Pomerol Merlot so we have also adapted. A healthy approach to fine winemaking is about confidence, humility and openness to change. After 15 vintages, we are still striving to make a better bottle of wine each year.