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Senior editor James Laube, Wine Spectator's expert on the wines of California, joined the magazine in 1983.
James Laube

A Napa Merlot That’s Still a Delicious Star

Paloma Merlot Spring Mountain District 2001

James Laube
Posted: January 14, 2010

Paloma's 2001 Merlot is still the best Merlot I’ve tasted from California. Named our Wine of the Year in 2003, this remains a wonderfully delicious piece of work—ripe, rich, layered, complex and impeccably balanced. A friend uncorked a bottle for lunch the other day, which we enjoyed along with a duck confit salad, and it is still showing beautifully.

What’s remarkable about this vineyard in Napa Valley's Spring Mountain District is that it also made great Cabernet and Syrah. When a vineyard can produce two or three noble wines, that validates its greatness and versatility. The owners, the Richards family, dropped those two wines to focus on Merlot, and I have mixed emotions about that.

As it stands, Paloma remains the greatest Merlot vineyard in California, and its wines can hold their own against the best Merlots grown anywhere. The 2001 is at a nice peak now and should hold another five to eight years. Still 95 points, non-blind, just as when I first rated it.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Paloma Merlot Spring Mountain District 2001 (95, $45).

• Plus, get our quick list of Top Values among California Merlot.

Eric Swanson
Westlake —  January 14, 2010 8:47am ET

Why do you have mixed emotions about the family focusing on merlot? There are so many newer producers of cabernet out there that I think it's refreshing to see someone focus on another varietal. Will their merlot ever have the age-ability of a great California cab?

James Laube
Napa, CA —  January 14, 2010 12:18pm ET
Of the two wines, I preferred the Cabernet ever so slightly (when it was bottled separately years ago). Cabernet in Napa can make an outstanding wine eight out of 10 vintages; Merlot is much more difficult. One this is clear. Paloma is a special site and the Richards have farmed it with precision.
Josh Moser
Sunnyvale, CA —  January 14, 2010 1:08pm ET
James - You are right on with the Paloma Merlot. I unfortunately drank my 01's and don't have any left, but I recently had the 02 and 03 and they were great.

Paloma's Merlot use to be difficult to find, but with the downturn in the economy you can easily obtain it or perhaps they are making more.

Do you know if they have increased production? I believe they only produced 2,000 cases of the 2001 Merlot.


James Laube
Napa, CA —  January 14, 2010 2:00pm ET
John, you can look up case production figures with the review, at the case number in 2006 was 2,700, up slightly from 2001, but that was when Paloma also made a Cabernet and Syrah.
Leonard Cupo M D
Honolulu, Hawaii —  January 15, 2010 5:43am ET
The lifeline of the Merlot is extended and the flavor and structure enhanced by the beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon from the vineyard.
Paloma is artisanal Merlot and a labor of love of the Richards family.
Mahalo to Barbara Richards, the Queen of Merlot and the dove ("paloma") of Spring Mountain.

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