OK, so rattage again! Due to a 50% wrong guess as to which wine was coming first, I drank this starting last Thursday night! What an early treat... and due to its length and to save your poor eyes I shall post the next night's follow up rattage in the morning!
Hawley Merlot 04
As of the end fo writing this I'm definitely a little squiffy. nice wine, you see...
I'm not going to do a long report here, (EDIT: this may not be accurate, in hindsight) because my new (old) Jeep crapped out on me on the 5 this evening, in between the first sniff of the 2004 Hawley Merlot, and being able to try it again.
So, throws a sediment. Decant, but not too much of a sediment, and stuck to the bottom, so when you decant just don't pour the last few ml. not necessary to stand up for 24 hours as you might an older Cab.
So, I decanted it, and first sniff, mmm, dusty. Indeed one of my friends K, said "a bit like an old attic". Tried it after abot 10 mins of decanting, with unsalted pistachios. Good, sharp, clean red fruit. A clean attack on the palate. Some spiciness, and a decent mouthwatering acidity. Nice length too. small taste, as I'm about to go driving. Some legs, but not too much. Not amaing, but then it's only been open 15 mins.
So, pour it back into the bottle, and an hour and a 10-20mph freeway journey later, I open and decant again it in comparison with a simultaneously-opened-and-decanted Pine Ridge Napa Valley Merlot 06, from a 2010 woot. Still the fine nose on the Hawley. Eating it with cold roast chicken. K, who doesn't like Merlot says it does have that Merlot taste, the spice, and then it goes away. I disagree a bit, as I taste the red fruit and nice sharp acid (not very malic, fresher). Also, it tastes like a proper Merlot, not that bland crap you usually get in California. This is a proper wine, with good acidity, but good fruit, that the frogs would like, as long as you didn't tell them it was made by les Américains!
The Pine Ridge opens up after an hour. It's too harsh at first, and you can taste the oak in it, both fresh hard oak, and softened integrated sweet oak tannins later. A decent amount of red fruits, and a heavy aspect: not a subtle Merlot, but big and fun, a bit like a medium-aged Rioja. Very Very long finish, of the sweet aged oak sort. I actually quite like that as it reminds me of aged heavily-oaked Tempranillo, Spanish style.
The Hawley is definitely lighter, and more subtle, and my friends - none of them connoisseurs, but who like "nice wine" - UNANIMOUSLY preferred it! The fruit reminds me of Wellington Zin fruit (wish I'd decided to get that Wellington Merlot out of storae this afternoon, but we'll have to make do with Pine Ridge! Anyway, I think the Wellington 06 needs a couple of more years cellaring: the Hawley and the Wellington are probably quite similar.) So, Love the fruit, great acid baklbone, definite oak, but integrated and not as overpowering as the Pine Ridge. Very good indeed. Indeed, given the structure, this is a Merlot which might actually last longer and benefit from ageing to secondary flavours, like a good old St Emilion. I wonder if this is 100% Merlot. It certainly tastes of Merlot, but it's delightfully-made. Light, and no deep Cabernet, but it has fruit, acid, present, but refined oak. Ah, I see from the label it's 8% Cab. Neat.. probably helped with it soft but structured nature.
It has the ability to pair with decent meats. Tried with salami also, and that brings out the deep dark red fruits in it. Cold deli-counter beef: also brings out the fresh vibrant redness and acidity and fruit. Yum. Then the beef tastes better afterwards, which is a hallmark of good, natural acidity. Chicken, works perfectly. Tannins are a little more present, fruits always deep red and singing loudly, and the acid keeps it lively. Ok let's try some cheese, Gromit. Fancy some Brie? Mmm, goes with cheese too. Let's take it to the moon.
I think this may age well for another 10 years and be rather wonderful, if the still-vibrant fruit softens to secondary aged flavours. It has spice, but it doesn't seem to be the alcohol spice of some wines, but rather from the subtle, integrated oak tannins the acid and still open, fresh present fruit.
Highly-recommended. Tastes of Merlot, but that's not a bad thing. Open red fruit. Light-claret, as it were, not reliant on high alcohol, balanced, and you can drink it now, as the tannins integrate, or hold it and see if it ends up like a classic Bordeaux. Tastes as if it might be slightly higher in alcohol than a true classic (% is not on the bottle so at writing time I don't know) , but that may not matter. It's a lot more complex on the palate than the Pine Ridge, which is fun, sassy, full of fruit but a little oaky to be truly poised. By prefernce I kept on gong back to the Hawley. More poise, not bigger red fruit, but more poised.
Buy, and drink, and cellar some.
Tomorrow I'll try it, 12 or 24-hours after opening. And probably try to clean up this rather tipsy prose.