Wine Reviews: Merry Edwards & Alma Fria

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-17-2021

This week, I’m highlighting two Sonoma County producers who bring me joy. I, for one, could use a bit of joy these days. I’ve been a fan of both of these producers for a while now, and I was excited to revisit them through the new releases. While tasting, I was comforted but just how reliably delicious and honest these wines are.

Merry Edwards has always had my respect, from Merry’s groundbreaking spot in Sonoma wine history, to the fact that the wines continue to deliver, vintage-in, vintage-out. With winemaker Heidi von der Mehden at the helm, this slew of 2019 Pinot Noirs continues the winery’s strong legacy.

I’ve been following Alma Fria since their 2013 vintage, and found these wines to be consistently exciting. If you’re a fan of lower alcohol Pinots and Chardonnays, with more citrus on the Chard side and tangy red fruit on the Pinot side, you should really check these out. The single-vineyard Pinots, like the Doña Margarita Vineyard near Freestone and the Holtermann Vineyard near Annapolis, deserve some cellar time, or plenty of air to strut their stuff. Winemaker Carroll Kemp really rocks it with the entry-level Plural wines, which have some sourced fruit and serve as are a great introduction to the producer’s style. They’re honestly some of the most delicious and bang-for-the-buck Pinots and Chards I find from California.

These wines were received as samples, and the Merry Edwards Pinot Noirs were tasted single-blind, while the others were tasted sighted.

2018 Alma Fría Chardonnay Plural USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $35
Light yellow color. The aromas pop with lemon curd, orange peel, and a vibrant mix of sea salt, hay, flinty and mineral elements, and some almond skin and honey. On the palate, this is crisp and nervy with lovely texture, a perfect amount of salinity and oyster shell elements that carries this wine. Lemons for days with some apricot and white peach, tossed together with chalk dust, honeyed tea, such verve and depth here, especially when you consider the price. Complex and delicious stuff here, a Chardonnay for Chenin fans. (93 points IJB)

2018 Alma Fría Chardonnay Campbell Ranch Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $50
Medium yellow color. Aromas are fresh and citrusy, with lemon curd and sliced pineapple mixed with these chalky, yellow floral tones. Pristine and fresh on the palate, with a nice balance between textural depth and salty, brisk vibes. Lemons and kiwi blend well with nuances of salted pecan, honey, minerals and chalk dusty. Pure, vibrant, nuanced Sonoma Coast Chardonnay here. (93 points IJB)

2018 Alma Fría Pinot Noir Plural USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $40
Medium ruby color. Vibrant aromas of cherries, strawberries and red plums, along with rose petals, warm clay, some oregano and mint. Medium-bodied, silky tannins on the palate, with lively acidity. Ripe but fresh tones of strawberries, McIntosh apple and wild raspberries, tossed together with notes of clove, cinnamon, rose petals. Nice spicy tones round out the finish. Such a balanced and nuanced wine, with complexity that rocks at this price point. (92 points IJB)

2018 Alma Fría Pinot Noir Holtermann Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $70
Bright ruby color. Such enticing aromas, spicy, airy, elegant, with raspberries and red apple peel, along with rhubarb, white pepper, tobacco and rose hips. On the palate, this Pinot is so silky and elegant, with a medium-bodied frame and crisp, focused acidity. Plush but tangy fruit (raspberries, strawberries, cherry), topped in complexities of rhubarb, white pepper, tobacco. With air these underlying notes of wet clay, mushroom and potting soil really start to shine. This is complex, nuanced, vibrant stuff. This vineyard is home to some very special grapes, and Alma Fria makes a beauty of a wine from them. (94 points IJB)

2018 Alma Fría Pinot Noir Doña Margarita Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $70
Bright ruby color. Such an airy, floral, inviting display on the nose, with rose petals, rhubarb, some oregano and white pepper, over top of raspberries, pomegranate and red apple. Expressive and invigorating, which transitions onto the palate, which is crisp and vibrant with dusty tannins. Raspberries and tangy red plum fruit blends well with complex notes of dried roses, white pepper, warm desert rocks and oregano. This stuff is balanced and age-worthy, or give it plenty of air and watch it evolve and pop. (94 points IJB)

2019 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $45
Pale lemon color. Gorgeous fruit on the nose (grapefruit, kiwi, green apple), topped in chalk dust, fresh mountain stream, and complex elements of honeysuckle, mint and sage. Zippy acidity frames the wine so well, balanced with deep texture, and plenty of salty, minerals, mountain stream tones. The lime, kiwi and ruby red grapefruit is juicy but tangy, and it all works well over these floral perfume, white pepper, cucumber slices, honey and chalk dust. I’ve tasted this wine a lot over the years, and there’s something about this vintage. Phenomenal stuff. This spends four months on the lees and is aged in French oak, 18% new. (95 points IJB)

2019 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $60
Medium ruby color. So fresh and juicy on the nose with red plums and wild raspberry, over top of rhubarb, cola, violets, some nuanced cedar and sarsaparilla. Full but fresh with smooth tannins, a pleasantly chewy but vibrant feel with black cherries and raspberry jam fruit. Violets, rhubarb, white pepper, along with some earthy, dusty tones and herbal tea, add complexity to this juicy, fun Pinot. Aged nine months in 55% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

2019 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Coopersmith Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $73
Deep ruby color. On the nose, this shows a nice mix of deep black cherries, ripe summer plums, cranberry relish, along with light roast coffee and herbal tea component, with savory spices mixed in, too. Medium/full-bodied with smooth tannins and vibrant, fresh acidity. Tangy blackberries, plums and cherries, darker, deeper fruit, but it maintains a tart edge. Roasted chestnut, toffee, violets, cigar box and some mineral undertones elevate the finish. Definitely one to cellar for at least a few years. Aged 10 months in 68% new French oak. (92 points IJB)

2019 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Klopp Ranch USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $73
A solid core of ruby. The aromas are so fresh, with ripe cherries, pomegranate, strawberry, backed up by pepper, roses, warm clay, rhubarb, and a lot of floral depth with air. On the palate, this is silky but structured, with zesty acid, great balance, and a deep but tangy mix of cherry, pomegranate and raspberry fruit. Elements of thyme, pepper, dried rose petals, clove, dusty earth. The mouthfeel is fantastic, but this needs at least a few years to show its best. Aged nine months in 69% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

2019 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Georganne Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $70
Light ruby color. A bright and elegant display on the nose of raspberries and red apple peel, rose petals, violets, with some cola, herbal tea and light roast coffee. Velvety, fresh and crisp on the palate, with delightful balance. The raspberry and chilled cherry fruit is delicious and fresh, mixed with notes of oregano, black tea, some clay and mushroom tones. Really exciting stuff that should do well with a few years in the cellar. Aged 10 months in 54% new French oak. (93 points IJB)

2019 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Olivet Lane Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $80
Deep ruby color. A warm aromatic compote of raspberries, cherries and cranberry relish, along with notes of warm clay, violets, some wild herbs and creosote tones – really nice. Full-bodied, solid structure but rounded tannic edges, deep but balanced with vibrant acidity. Suave plum, strawberry and cherry fruit play well off these notes of sage, paprika, pepper – a ton going on here. Broth, mushroom tones need time to come out. This needs time, but it is so, so good. Aged nine months in 83% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

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