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Hello, Merlot!

You’ll often hear us talk about our Hirondelle Vineyard in Stags Leap District (the home of our winery since 1972 and the site of the Hirondelle House), but we also farm another estate property just a few miles north in the Yountville AVA – Riverbend Vineyard.  

This 100-acre tract borders the Napa River in a rich riparian area with significant soil variations, which has allowed us to plant Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Chardonnay throughout the years.  

This week, we’re grafting a few acres of Merlot onto Chardonnay vines. This will allow the same vines that grew Chardonnay to grow Merlot, all in the span of just 1-2 vintages. It’s a skilled, labor-intensive process to graft a single bud into a precisely cut incision on the trunk of each vine, but this allows us to more quickly and efficiently change the varietals that we grow in our vineyards. If we were to tear out the young Chardonnay and plant new Merlot vines, this part of the vineyard wouldn’t produce wine-ready fruit for another 3-4 years. Grafting is also less disruptive to the vineyard’s soil and infrastructure, allowing us to re-use trellis and irrigation systems that are still perfectly functional and keep our healthy, established rootstock. 

In a few years, you’ll be tasting Merlot from these vines in many of our Cabernet Sauvignon blends – cheers! 

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