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The Central Coast A.V.A. spans more than 300 miles along California’s western edge. Extending from the northern reaches of the San Francisco Bay Area to Santa Barbara County’s southern boundary, it encompasses all or part of 14 counties and covers over six million acres, 100,000 of which are currently dedicated to viticulture.
Merlot’s light weight and slightly high acidity make it a flexible workhorse at the table. For the purposes of food pairing, merlots typically fall somewhere between pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon in terms of overall power and density. And the Clos LaChance falls in the middle of that spectrum. While lighter, lean red meats are obvious contenders, this offering can also pair beautifully with seafood. Salmon, sturgeon and tuna are worthy companions, especially when grilled or broiled.
Clos LaChance evolved from a few rows of chardonnay that Bill and Brenda (maiden name: LaChance) Murphy planted in their Silicon Valley backyard, with the dual purpose of landscaping and realizing their “dreams of being small-scale vintners.” It turned out Bill, a retired Hewlett-Packard executive, had a knack for winemaking. In 1993, under pressure from thirsty consumers, he released 200 cases under the Clos LaChance label. A lot has changed since then. Today, while still family-owned and -operated, Clos LaChance has been modernized: 150 acres planted to 20 different grape varieties, 45 employees and an annual production of 60,000 cases.
The sustainably farmed, estate-grown fruit for this blend — merlot (80 percent), zinfandel, malbec, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot — was all harvested and sorted by hand. Following fermentation in stainless steel tanks, the wine was matured in a combination of French and American oak cooperage. On both the nose and the palate, notes of dried herbs, mocha, spicy vanilla and dried orange zest heighten primary fruit notes of black cherry, red currant and black raspberry. This varietally accurate and stylishly wrought wine offers a welcome reminder of just how charming and food-friendly merlot can be.