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2000 Swanson Merlot, Napa

Swanson is a great example of a winery built on the love and hard work of a single family that has matured into a solid producer of quality Napa wines. Alexis Swanson's father bought a small plot of land in Oakville nearly on a whim in 1985 and planted it with Merlot in spite of the outrage of most other local producers at the time, all of whom saw the land as Cabernet soil. Nearly 20 years later, that vineyard is snugly fit between Silver Oak and Opus Oneand is producing excellent Merlot among other things.

The Swanson family are a bunch of control freaks, as much as they are contrarians, attentive to every detail of their wine production, to the point of sourcing and curing their own oak which is then made into barrells to their exacting specifications.

"While we ask ourselves often if it wouldn't be easier to just buy commercially available barrels (at a lower price) for all our production, the results of our project have been too encouraging to ignore: delicious oak flavors and aromas unique to our wines, and the comfort of total control."

Swanson is the type of producer whose wines I love to drink -- both because their product is good, and because in doing so I know I am supporting people who put as much care into producing the wine as I would.

The wine is mostly their Oakville Merlot with Cabernet and Cabernet Franc blended in from their other properties throughout Napa.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is a gorgeous, dark blood red, and the nose opens substantially over an hour to be filled with blackberry pie, chocolate, and a light scent of cooked red beets. The body of the wine is thick and rich with more blackberry and plum, and light cherry flavors strung together with nice, firm tannins, that make me believe this wine will age well. My one complaint about this wine is that it has a slightly hot finish, which counters the lovely fruit and acid balance that the wine achieves in the front of the mouth.

Food Pairing:
This is a good food wine and one that I would love to drink with duck (one of my favorites to pair with a Merlot). Perhaps you could try this wine with crispy duck breasts with pear and green peppercorn sauce.

Overall Score: 8.5

How Much?: $27

I get my Swanson from Porthos.

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