2018 Boëté, Merlot, Reserve, Saunders Estate Vineyard, Carmel Valley AVA, Monterey County.
The 2018 Reserve Merlot is first time the Saunders family have produced a solo Merlot effort from their tiny hillside vineyard in Carmel Valley and it’s a deeply purple/garnet colored wine with a full bodied and satiny palate that pleases the senses. This Boëté Reserve Merlot, only 70 cases made, is showing extremely well right now, with just a hint of rusticity, but with loads of pretty fruit, nice French oak notes and length. As long time fan of the Saunders, who’s hillside vines, planted in 1997, are wonderfully situated high above the Carmel River, where they get plenty of warm sunshine, just about a mile or so past the Carmel Valley Village, this vintage is maybe the most elegant so far. There’s a lot to like here in the solidly structured Merlot Reserve with its smooth textured layers of blackberry, black cherry, red currant and plum fruits, that are accented nicely by cedary sandalwood notes, stony loam, acacia florals, anise and mocha. This wine begs for robust cuisine and meaty dishes in particular, like prime rib, steaks and or leg of lamb.

John Saunders, who founded Boëté in the early 2000s, and his sons, Jesse (winemaker) and Dylan, continue to put out strong efforts here, with the winery specializing in 100% estate-grown Carmel Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, a big local favorite and Merlot, as found here in this wine, plus they do a lovely claret style Bordeaux blend called the Cheval Rouge. The winery is focused on ripeness and the wines generously rich, showing opulent fruit density and mouth feel, as this lush Merlot showcases. The Saunders have tight collection of offerings and I was impressed with the full lineup I recently tried, these included a few of my favorites, their 2015 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which has aged nicely, the delicious 2018 Cab Franc and the new Merlot, which I am featuring here. The winemaking is simple and traditional with a priority to allow the vines to speak for themselves with 100% hand picked and de-stemmed grapes that are carefully selected and open top fermented and see a long elevage, between 18 and 24 months, in mostly used French oak barrels to promote a raw transparency in the wines. Boëté, a micro winery is mainly a direct to consumer label selling mostly to their mailing list and on the website. It is a good time to check out the latest releases here at Boëté, especially these tasty 2018 wines.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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