I have been fortunate enough to receive bottles of the flagship wines of Murrieta’s Well for a few years now, and I have really enjoyed both the Whip (the white blend) and the Spur (the red). This year, however, there were a few more bottles in the box that landed on my doorstep, and the additional bottles (three of the winery’s “Small Lot” line) proved to be fantastic as well.
Grapes have been grown in Livermore since the 1800’s and the tasting room at Murrieta’s Well is an original gravity flow winery that was built in 1884. In the 1960’s there were as many acres under vine in Livermore as there were in Napa Valley. Yet as Napa started its ascendency, Livermore remained in relative obscurity.
In all my visits to California, I have yet to visit the Livermore Valley, just south of San Francisco, and Murrieta’s Well, owned by Wente Vineyards. That will clearly need to change soon as the three additional wines underscored what the Whip and Spur had already shown: there are some high quality wines being produced in Livermore.
2015 Murrieta’s Well The Whip White Wine: Retail $24. 30% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Sémillon, 30% Chardonnay, 7% Viognier, 3% Muscat Canelli. I am not usually a fan of the kitchen sink type of blend, since it seems like too much “Chemistry Class” and not as much letting the fruit, vineyard, and vintage speak. There are a few exceptions, of course, and this happens to be one of them—I first started tasting The Whip a few vintages ago, and it has always been spot on. This is no exception. Even though it only comprises 3% of the blend, the Muscat Canelli really stands out, even among the other aromatic varieties. There is plenty of mango, peach, pear with some bright minerality and very pleasant on the palate with tartness, fruit, and even some depth. Honestly? This wine really does cause me to reevaluate my position on multiple varietal blends. Really. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2016 Murrieta’s Well Small Lot Muscat Canelli, Livermore Valley California: Retail $35. I have to be honest, when I saw “Muscat Canelli” on the label, I cringed. Why? Well, most wines made from the variety are either insipidly sweet, overly aromatic, or worse: both. Then I noticed “Small Lot” on the front label (which has no defined meaning other than the desire by the winery to indicate its relatively limited production) and “150 Cases” on the back label (which also does not necessarily mean anything other than the winery was serious enough about the wine to make it in a really small quantity). Tasting the wine, though, I got it: this is special. There is a wonderful, yet understated (a good thing) floral aspect to this wine that dances with aromas of white peach, citrus, and guava. On the palate, there is great fruit—really great fruit—and while it comes off as pretty close to bone dry, there is still a nice roundness that melds well with the acidity. Before opening, I feared this bottle. Upon tasting, I revel in it. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2014 Murrieta’s Well The Spur Livermore Valley: Retail $30. 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Petite Sirah, 14% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc. This is not my first time tasting The Spur (and hopefully will not be the last) so I knew I was in for a treat. Murrieta’s Well “kitchen sink” red is much more than a blend of “left-overs” and misfits that characterize some multi-varietal blends. No, The Spur seems to be crafted with intent and purpose to highlight the diversity and richness of Livermore Valley fruit. Dark red berries and clove on the nose give way to a luscious mouthfeel with plenty of fruit, vanilla, and a tart acidity that holds it nicely together. While the tannins appear to be mostly integrated, this might still benefit from another year or two in the cellar. Still, right now? Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2014 Murrieta’s Well Small Lot Cabernet Franc: Retail $58. 88% Cabernet Franc, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot. Not all wines are better on the second day (i.e., 24+ hours after initially open), but it happens more than most people might assume. What is rare, though, is when a wine is vastly better on Day 2. Such was the case with this Cab Franc from the good people at Murrieta’s Well. On Day 1, frankly, I was not all that impressed, but instead of dwelling on that brief period in time, I would rather emphasize the day after. Whoa. What a difference! Dark, but translucent, with dark red fruit, clove, black pepper, nutmeg, and vanilla, all with the opinion that this wine is still a tad closed. On the palate? Another Whoa: great reserved fruit, plenty of earth and mouth-puckering acidity, this is a wine built for the longish haul. Hold on to it for at least a couple of years and thou shalt be rewarded. Bravo. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2014 Murrieta’s Well Small Lot Merlot Livermore Valley: Retail $52. 90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petite Sirah. A deep crimson in the glass, with a viscosity that grips the sides of the stem on even the slightest swirl, this wine oozes fruit and spice on the nose. Boysenberry, raspberry, mocha, and a dash of cinnamon give this Merlot already more intrigue than most of its varietal brethren. On the palate this is gangbusters: velvety fruit, a weighty mid-palate, and a lengthy, delicious, and slightly grippy finish. I do not often gush about Merlot, but this is really close to getting a Whoa. Really close. Might be my Merlot of the year thus far. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.