Twomey Cellars is a little out of the ordinary in two respects. At Twomey Cellars in Napa Valley, they make only Merlot. All their Merlot grapes come from their estate vineyards in the Soda Canyon Ranch that is at the south end of the valley east of the Silverado Trail. The second interesting aspect has to do with the way they make their Merlot. You probably have heard the term “handcrafted” banded about by many wineries. It is a terrific marketing term that many boutique wineries use and frankly, who knows what it really means. But, in the case of Twomey, the word handcrafted is apropos. To rack the Merlot, during its 18 months of aging, Twomey uses a traditional method of transferring wine from one barrel to another called soutirage. In this method, rather than pump the wine from barrel to barrel, small amounts of wine are transferred from the barrel in a receptacle and then poured into the barrel by hand. They do this every three months at Twomey. Soutirage is used by just a handful of wineries and mainly in the Bordeaux region of France.
For a $5 tasting fee we were poured two generous portions of the Twomey 2003 and 2001 Merlot. As you can imagine the wines are expensive, but they don’t taste like ordinary Merlots. Merlot got a bad wrap in the hit movie “Sideways” probably because too many supermarket Merlots taste the same, simple, soft, and sort of flat. However, the Twomey Merlot has nothing simple about it. It is a delicious, complex wine and has an elegant feel to it. The 2003 is really a smooth but full-flavored Merlot.
The tasting fee of $5 also includes a very nice and handsome souvenir wine glass. Our host was extremely informative, despite the fact that the tasting room was quite busy. At our previous winery, we’d had an unpleasant experience but our visit to Twomey more than made up for it. We rate the Twomey tasting room experience as excellent. Twomey is located on Dunaweal Lane, just off Highway 29, a couple of miles before Calistoga.
As a side note, we learned later that the same family who owns the renowned Cabernet Sauvignon winery Silver Oaks, owns the Twomey winery.
The Good: This is what real Merlot tastes like. Informative and cheerful staff.
The Bad: If you don’t care for Merlot, you are out of luck.