Baily 2015 Meritage

Baily 2015 Meritage

Winery/Vineyard: Baily Vineyard & Winery
Product/Varietal: 60% Cabernet Franc + 30% Cabernet Sauvignon + 10% Malbec
Vintage: 2015
AVA on Bottle: Temecula Valley
Winemaker: Phil Baily

Rating: 92

88/100 on Cellar Tracker
Bronze at 2019 SF International Wine Competition
Gold at 2019 San Diego International Wine Competition
Silver at 2019 Harvest Challenge
4.1 out of 5 stars on Vivino (all vintages)

How They Describe It

Meritage is a coined word that rhymes with “heritage” and is licensed for use by wineries that belong to the Meritage Association. It is defined as a high-end blended wine composed of two or more of the classic Bordeaux varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. In Bordeaux, the wines of the west (or left) bank of the Gironde estruary (Medoc) are made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon, while those east (or right) bank of the Gironde (St. Emilion & Pomerol) are made primarily from Merlot and sometimes Cabernet Franc. Consequently, the Right Bank wines tend to be somewhat softer. The blend for this vintage is 60% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon (50% Berenda Vineyard, 50% La Serena Vineyard), and 10% Malbec, making it comparable to Right Bank Bordeaux wines.

We picked the La Serena Cabernet Sauvignon on August 29, the Malbec on September 2, and the Berenda Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc on September 7 at an average brix of 22.3. The grapes were crushed and fermented in stainless steel tanks, pressed, and after a period of settling, placed into 60-gallon oak barrels in November of 2015. Half of the barrels were new American Oak and half were three-year-old. In June of 2018, we took the individual wines out of barrel, created the blend, filtered, and bottled.

Our Meritage is known for its elegance and finesse, and its well-integrated soft tannins; this is no exception. The wine is very smooth and well balanced with clean acidity and flavors of raspberry, vanilla, and cassis. It is pleasing now after a year and a half in bottle and will age gracefully over the next decade. Alcohol is 13.5%, pH is 3.58, and titratable acidity is 6.7 grams per liter. Only 260 cases were made.

How I Describe It

The Baily 2015 Meritage is a deep blood red. In other words, this wine spent plenty of time soaking in pigments and tannins from the grape skins, and it shows. After half a decade, there’s some slight garneting, but the color is very well-preserved compared to some microproduced wines.

Raspberry and vanilla are the two most prominent aromas, from the get-go. Subsequently, black currant (cassis), strawberry, tart red cherry, and black plum make considerable appearances. A spicy and woody bouquet of black pepper, very faint green bell pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, charred wood, and pine reveal both the complexity of this blend, as well as the deliberate intricacies behind the Baily 2015 Meritage winemaking process. A tiny hint of leather finishes things off.

Flavors in the Baily 2015 Meritage differ a bit from the nose. Black plum, fig, dried cranberries, and blackberries are most notable — an indication of the wine’s maturity and fruit development. In addition, spice and oak flavors include black pepper, green olive, cedar, vanilla, nutmeg, and bittersweet chocolate. More subtly, charcoal, bread dough, leather, and wild game contribute savory characteristics. Finally, delicate herbal notes of pine, lavender, and fennel make up the finish.

The Baily 2015 Meritage is dry, and at 13.5% ABV has medium alcohol. Everything else about this wine is medium-plus, from the acid level, to the tannins, the body, flavor intensity, and the finish — not too weak, but not too in-your-face.

Why is This Wine Special?

Firstly, how about the description provided by Baily Winery in How They Describe It? I’m kind of a wine geek. So, to get a full rundown about the harvest, fermentation, barrel selections, and chemistry is like poetry to me. Likewise, it gives an outstanding peek into the number of decisions great winemakers need to make as they craft their products.

Next, there’s a characteristic — or, rather, the lack of a characteristic — in this wine worth mentioning: capsicum. It’s the chemical that gives some wines a green bell pepper or green olive aroma/flavor. It’s very common in Cabernet varietals, and tends to show up more in grapes from warmer climates. Too much capsicum is considered a fault. While the capsicum is detectable in the Baily 2015 Meritage, it’s incredibly attenuated and well-integrated into the rest of the wine. That’s a testament to the Baily Winery team’s skill.

Over the last few years, new wineries have sprung up in Temecula by the dozens. Baily Winery is one of the originals, and deserves continued praise for elevating the winemaking craft in the Temecula Valley AVA — particularly for those who prefer Bordeaux varietals.

When & How I Would Drink It

Above all, Bordeaux-style wines do very well paired with meats. Big bold Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines are practically purpose-built for rich, fatty cuts like rib eye. Red blends modeled after Right Bank Bordeaux wines, though, are mellower and more delicate. Consequently, they do better with leaner cuts of beef, more seasoned protein dishes, pork, and even some poultry.

One of the nice things about the Baily 2015 Meritage is the leaner body, compared to some beefy Cabernet Sauvignon-based or Syrah-based Temecula wines. While the latter does well next to rich foods or as a stand-alone, the 2015 Meritage is outstandingly well-suited for pairing.

I sampled the Baily 2015 Meritage with a prosciutto and burrata flatbread from Home Chef. The saltiness from the cured meat amplified the wine’s fruit components, and the burrata blended with the tannins to create an even more velvety mouthfeel.

How to Get It

Order Online:

Bottle Price: $65.00 ($52.00 for “Cellar Rat” wine club members)

Cases Produced: 260 cases

Have you tried the Baily 2015 Meritage? How did the tasting notes compare with your experience? Leave a comment below.

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