Sawyer Cellars 2008 Merlot and Mole-Style Chili

Passport to Fiesta

In honor of Cinco de Mayo the Rutherford Appellation Wineries will hold their spring passport event, a “Rutherford Passport to Fiesta,” on the weekend of May 5th and 6th. Eleven wineries will offer special tastings and comida to those who purchase a two-day passport for $75 or a Sunday-only passport for $60.

Each winery will offer a unique tasting experience such as barrel samples, limited edition wines, or tastings with the winemaker, all accompanied by festive Cinco de Mayo fare. Participating wineries include Alpha Omega, Beaulieu Vineyard, Conn Creek Winery, Honig Vineyard & Winery, J. Moss, Peju Province, Piña Napa Valley, Raymond Vineyards, St. Supery Vineyards & Winery, Sawyer Cellars and Tres Sabores. As always, profits from the event will be donated to a local charity. Passports may be purchased online and will be available for pick-up at the Rutherford Grange on Saturday, May 5th. For more information or to purchase a passport please visit

Sawyer Cellars will be serving  Napa chef Jonathan Bodnar’s  Mole-Style Chile (click here for recipe). Chef’s dish will be paired with the Sawyer Cellars 2008 Estate Merlot.  There is no mistaking the  distinctive flavor profile of Rutherford wines.  There’s something very special about the terroir that screams this is  “The Place” and “The Taste” of  great wines.

Sawyer Cellars Merlot

The Sawyer Cellars 2008 Merlot  is smooth, aromatic, complex and stylish.  It’s the perfect example of just how good Rutherford area wines can be. I am impressed that this wine is drinkable now. I was expecting a bit  more tannic profile. I was wrong.  Comprised of 100% Merlot there are plenty of bing cherry, cassis,  and vanilla notes. I also caught  attention-grabbing waves of spice, cocoa and yummy plum.  Grown in their own Rutherford vineyard, this well balanced wine reveals integrated  layers of blackberry followed by a light smoky finish. This is a graceful Merlot that will age well. Definitely add it to your cellar.

For my wine geek friends: Merlot in particular is a thin-skinned grape.  It  ripens earlier in the season then its competitor Cabernet Sauvignon and is less hardy, which makes it prone to rot and mildew. It prefers a relatively warm growing environment. It’s popularity is based on its food friendly attitude.  It is softer and  fruitier than Cab, yet displays many of the same aromas and flavors – black cherry, currant, cedar, and green olive or green pepper – along with mint, tobacco and tea-leaf tones. It’s often used as a blending grape to round out the flavor profile of other varietals. It’s a good accompaniment to simply prepared beef and most vegetarian dishes.