According to a famous 1990’s advertising campaign,”milk does a body good.” We subscribe to the philosophy that wine – good wine – also does a body good. We recently met Sylvie Laly, the wonderful Sales and Wine Director for Napa Valley winery Melka Wines, who was gracious enough to share some of their wines with us. After tasting one of their white wines and four reds, we can say that “Melka does a body good” as well.
We first heard about Melka wines through a recommendation from a sommelier at one of our favorite Napa Valley restaurants (Torc in downtown Napa) and enjoyed a bottle or two there. We also were pleased to learn that some of their wines can be purchased at select Total Wine & More stores (with one conveniently located just 100 yards from work).
In total, Sylvie shared five wines with us, starting with the 2014 CJ Cabernet Sauvignon, named after Philippe and Cherie Melka’s children, Chloe and Jeremy.
The CJ Cabernet is the most mass-produced of the Melka wines – if 1,800 cases counts as “mass production.” This wine is 76% Cab with Petit Verdot, Cab Franc and Merlot blended in as well. This wine is way too good to be anyone’s “Tuesday night wine” – it was luscious and bold, with a fine balance of fruit, acidity, minerality and tannins. But at a $75.00 price point the wine is quite a value as it priced far less than Napa Cabs of similar quality that cost 50-100% more.
After finishing the CJ Cabernet, we moved on to the 2014 Melka Majestique – a 100% Syrah from the Paderewski vineyard in Paso Robles.
Only the fourth vintage from this vineyard, the Majestique Syrah was one of the better California Syrahs that we have consumed: complex with many layers, both in terms of aroma and flavor. The Majestique had strong blackberry and blueberry notes but also was bursting with pepper and spice to deliver a balanced finish with surprisingly restrained tannins. This is not a wine to sip while sitting by the pool or even reading a book on a rainy day – it will be better paired with food that can stand up to its bold flavor.
Sylvie followed the Syrah with the 2013 Proprietary Red from La Mekerra Vineyard in Knights Valley.
Each year, winemaker Phillipe Melka strives to achieve as close to a 50/50 combination of Cabernet Franc and Merlot as he can. For the 2013 vintage, the wine was 53% Cab Franc and 47% Merlot. Like most of the Melka wines, the production quantities are small – only 400 total cases produced. In our opinion, the Melka Proprietary Blend was their best wine – luscious, velvety, powerful, spicy with a strong tannic finish. A more common blend in both Bordeaux and Napa would be Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, rather than Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Nevertheless, we think this wine holds its own against some of the most famous Napa Cabernet Sauvignon-anchored red blends at any price.
Our next wine was the 2013 Metisse from Napa Valley’s Jumping Goat Vineyard – a Cabernet Sauvignon with 13% Petit Verdot and 5% Merlot.
This is Philippe Melka’s “Big Napa Cab” – 15.8% alcohol, aged 23 months in 80% new French oak barrels. However, we don’t want to leave our readers with the impression that this wine was a typical Napa Cab “fruit bomb.” For sure, the aroma and flavor of the wine are driven by dark fruit – blackberry and plum; but the wine is also complex, layered, sophisticated and nuanced and we imagine that over the course of an entire bottle the flavors would continue to unravel.
Too quickly we arrived at our last wine to taste – the 2014 Mekerra Proprietary White, Knights Valley, which is 97% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Muscadelle.
When Sylvie told us that the wine had undergone 100% secondary (malolactic) fermentation and had been in French oak barrels for nearly two years, we were not sure what to expect. What we found in the glass, however, was a splendidly balanced white wine with none of the over-oaked aroma or flavor that you often find in California white wines. There was plenty of fruit on the palate – citrus and melon – but the wine was also crisp and had enough acidity to provide a long finish. We learned that the grapes for the Melka Sauvignon Blanc are sourced from Knights Valley, a vineyard location in Sonoma County with an elevation of over 2,300 feet.
If you pick up some Melka wine, make sure to take a close look at the label, each of which contains a close-up photo of the eyes of co-owner Philippe. For each series of wine (Mekerra, Majestique, Metisse), his eyes change color. For instance, on the label for the wines from Mekerra Vineyard, his eyes are blue (because Mekerra is the name of a river).
We look forward to tasting wines with Sylvie again when Melka’s winery opens. Be sure to check out Melka wines at their website: Melka Wines.
John & Irene Ingersoll
February 14, 2017