Livermore Valley is gaining fans among California visitors. Quality wineries like Murrieta’s Well are one reason why.
Livermore Valley is less than an hour east of San Francisco. It is one of California’s oldest winegrowing regions with the first commercial vineyards being planted in the 1840s.
The region boasts some wine heavyweights with high outputs as well as wineries like Murrieta’s Well, that focus on limited production wines. Increasingly, wine lovers are deciding to skip the crowds and high prices of Napa and Sonoma and visit Livermore Valley.
Through a virtual tasting hosted by Snooth we were able to taste a quintet of Murrieta’s Well wines with commentary by winemaker Robbie Meyer. It gave an insight into why wines from this region are garnering increased attention.
Murrieta’s Well is one of California’s original wine estates, growing grapes since the 1800s. The winery also comes with an impressive pedigree. The vineyard was started with cuttings from the prized Chateau d’Yquem and Chateau Margaux vineyards in France.
We started our tasting a bit early, taking the 2017 Dry Rosé with us on a trip Wrightsville Beach, NC. After a day of fun in the sun, we uncorked the chilled bottle while watching the surf roll in on our balcony.
The rosé is 42% Grenache, 39% Counoise and 19% Mourvedre. It’s a Rhone-style wine and the addition of Counoise adds great acidity. It is a peach color with strawberry notes. No flimsy summer sipper here: It’s a serious rosé that would pair beautifully with salmon. SRP is $30.
The virtual tasting kicked off with a pair of whites. The 2017 Small Lot Sauvignon Blanc is made in the French style. It is fermented in French oak barrels to breath and mature, but is removed after early aging so heavy oak qualities are not imparted to the wine. It is aged sur lie for four months in neutral oak barrels to add texture. It has soft grapefruit notes and a wonderful acidity. The grapes are descendants of the original Chateau d’Yquem cuttings. It retails for $35.
Two wines that have brought Murrieta’s Well to the forefront are beautifully crafted blends. The 2016 “The Whip” White Blend is 33% Sauvignon Blanc, 24% Semillon, 21% Chardonnay, 12% Orange Muscat and 10% Viognier. The wine is dark straw in color and provides a carnival ride of flavors and aromas. The Orange Muscat and Viognier amp up the aromatics with funky floral notes.To add to the complexity, some components of the blend are aged in small oak barrels while others are aged in stainless steel tanks.
This is a lively wine with white peach flavor notes and a crisp finish. We paired it with lump North Carolina crab cake, snow peas and hush puppies. It would also work well with Thai food, too. It’s one of our favorite white wines and has a very approachable cost of $26.
Counterpoint to the Whip on the red side is the 2015 “The Spur” Red Blend. The wine is a mix of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petite Sirah, 18% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot and 6% Cabernet Franc. Each variety was fermented individually then blended together and aged for 24 months in a combination of new and neutral French oak. This wine is easily the equal of others costing twice the price. It exudes ripe blackberry, vanilla and spice notes. Layer upon layer of flavor create an inviting complexity. It is one of our top wine picks.
The Well Is Not Dry
Murrieta’s Well had not yet run dry. The crowning wine in our tasting was the 2015 Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cab has 11% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec. All the grapes come from the Murrieta's Well estate vineyard and the grapes are hand sorted. The 2015 harvest was the fourth drought vintage in a row, but contributed to flavor-concentrated grapes and expressive wines.
The wine has earthy notes with luscious black fruit and cocoa. It’s an impressive wine that can be aged now through 2025. The Small Lot Cab is scheduled to be released in September (we got a sneak peak!). It retails for $58.
In case it isn’t apparent, we really like Murrieta’s Well wine. This iconic Livermore Valley winery has a great lineup of wines and the quintet we tasted is representative of the quality of the entire range. They aren’t producing “entry level” or “lifestyle” wines. Instead, Murrieta’s Well focuses on finely crafted, limited production wines. We are particularly enamored of their “The Whip” and “The Spur” blends. A good host could keep a case of each on hand and be very nicely provisioned for any occasion.
We’re glad that California’s drought hasn’t dried up this well of amazing wine.
Full disclosure: We received this wine as marketing samples.