There may be a better way to start a trip to California Wine Country than what we did last week but I highly doubt it. Merrill Lindquist is the owner of EMH/Black Cat Vineyards just off of Picket Road in Calistoga, CA. I wrote to her a month before our trip and requested an appointment for our group of six wine enthusiasts from the Philly/South Jersey area. I requested the visit, not based on her highly regarded cabernet sauvignons, which I had never tasted, but on the basis of her many responses to inquiries on wine boards that I read. Merrill was always polite and informative and there was always this underlying sense that she was an extremely warm and caring individual. Merrill was all of the above.
She met us at her house and invited us into her dining room where we sat and tasted through a vertical of her outstanding cabernets. It is truly amazing that she is able to produce such eloquent cabs from her tiny parcel of vineyard (less than one acre). We began with a side by side comparison of the 05 and 06 cabs. Most of us agreed that although both were excellent we would give a slight edge to the 05 as the rich dark fruit, evidenced in both was mingled in the 05 with a distinct silkiness. Moments later that wasn’t quite as important as we were now drinking everyone’s “new” favorite, the 2007 Black Cat. This was one was magical; featuring sweet floral scents, an almost cotton candy-like nose and each sip brought a mouth-filling sensation of chocolate covered cherries with a finish that went on and on.
We moved from the table to her yard and walked amongst the recently picked vines where Merrill pointed out some of her prestigious neighbors including the Araujo Eisele Vineyard, just a stones throw away. We got to meet one of her two pride and joys, her lovely daughter, Emily, who was off from school. Unfortunately, although we did spend some time with her second favorite black feline, the famous “Sparkles” had decided to hide for the day.
As the lunch hour approached we reluctantly surrendered our wine glasses, made a few purchases and some mental notes to try and get some of the 08’s on release. The EMH, (which stands for the first initial of Merrill, Emily, and her ex, Hugh), only produces somewhere between 125 and 140 cases each year. There is another winery with same Black Cat name nearby and it is important when seeking out these remarkable wines that you make sure they are the EMH/Black Cat wines.
Merrill suggested SolBar for lunch and that proved to be another one of her talents as the food and service there were top notch. Thank you, Ms. Lindquist for getting our Napa visits off to a great start and for providing all of us with a unique learning experience.