Paloma Vineyard's Award-Winning Merlot Wine

Karen Frazier
Merlot grapes and wine bottle

Paloma Merlot Spring Mountain District wine is a veritable youngster in the world of wine, with its first bottling unveiled in the mid-1990s. It quickly gained a reputation as one of the highest quality Merlots in the country, and in each successive year, the winery has produced another batch of highly rated Merlot.

Making Paloma Merlot Spring Mountain District

Estate Merlot and Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is blended together to make Paloma Merlot Spring Mountain District, with the former making up between 12 and 18 percent of the wine, depending on the vintage. The small vineyard from which the grapes are harvested has very small groups of grapevines with fruit that ripens at various times. After the grapes are destemmed, they are cracked open by a vintage stemmer/crusher customized through removing the crusher rollers. The subsequent fermentation takes place in small stainless steel tanks and open top fermenters. The grape pomace is then lightly pressed through an old-fashioned basket press, followed by settling in a stainless steel tank. The winemaker then uses French oak barrels to age the wine for 19 months before bottling. Paloma also makes a Napa Valley Merlot that is slighty lower in cost and doesn't receive as much critical acclaim as the Spring Mountain District.

Taste Variations

Although the Paloma Merlot wines are full-flavored and ready to enjoy after the oak barrel aging, most of them improve with age for ten to 15 years. Each vintage has its own distinct characteristics but all have a consistent mixture of intricate aromas of chocolate, tobacco, spice, dark berry fruits and black stone fruits with mineral nuances and floral tinges. Your palate will be treated to a silky feel of well-balanced flavors that incorporate the tastes of fruit, berries, spices, cassis and cocoa, followed by a luxuriant spicy finish. Paloma Merlot has mild fruit tannins that highlight the individual fruit tastes of the wine.

Paloma's Past

The Richards family that founded the Paloma Vineyard first visited the Napa Valley in the late 1970s and was immediately smitten by the lush countryside and friendly people. Although they lived in Midland, Texas, the family couldn't deny the draw to Napa and their dream to own a vineyard. It took a few years to find the perfect location, which a friend in Napa Valley helped locate, and the Richards bought the property that eventually became the Paloma Vineyard and Winery in 1983.

For the first seven years, the Richards learned about growing wine grapes from their neighbors and through trial and error. Before they built their winery in 1990, they sold most of the grapes they grew to other local wineries, reserving a few clusters here and there to try their hand at wine making.

Paloma Merlot Wine's Critical Acclaim

Just a few years later, the winery's 2001 Paloma Merlot earned an impressive score of 95 from Wine Spectator Magazine, one of the most prestigious wine publications in the country. The same vintage was chosen as the magazine's 2003 Wine of the Year. These rave reviews resulted in the 2001 bottling selling out a just a few days. Every year since 2003, Paloma Merlots have consistently been hailed as some of the best ever produced in California and generally receive ratings in the upper 80s and lower 90s by wine experts and connoisseurs. While the original winemakers, Barabara and Jim Richards, have passed away, their son Sheldon is continuing the family's legacy. Recent vintages have also met with critical acclaim. Recent vintages have received aggregate critics' ratings across vintages and critics of 90 points, and the overall aggregate critics score of all vintages of the wine is 91 points. This shows consistency and quality in the grape growing and winemaking process.

Where to Buy Paloma Merlot

You can find Paloma Merlot at a number of local and online wine shops. You can also buy current releases in the Paloma online store. Expect to pay around $45 to $80 per bottle with the more successful and highly rated vintages costing upwards of $100 per bottle or more on secondary markets. You can still purchase bottles of the 2001 Paloma Merlot, and the wine is holding its age well, although it should be consumed soon. Expect to pay a bit more for the 2001 due to its popularity and sky-high critics' ratings.

Other Wines From Paloma

Palmoa makes more than Merlot, although that is the wine for which they are best known. The Napa Valley winery also produces two other red wines, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sheldon Richards also has plans to begin planting Cabernet Franc, which grows well in Napa.

Critically Acclaimed Napa Merlot

Paloma's Merlot from Napa's Spring Mountain District is cultivated and produced in small batches from a second-generation winemaker. And while the original winemakers have died, their son Sheldon is carrying on his parents' legacy of making a truly world-class Merlot.

Paloma Vineyard's Award-Winning Merlot Wine