Uber-consultant Philippe Melka and his wife Cherie, a microbiologist, have been making their own signature Metisse label and CJ wines since the 1996 vintage. Going into their second decade with the 2007 vintage however, the couple decided to focus on the strength of Philippe’s reputation as one of the top consulting winemakers with greater emphasis on the Melka name on the label as well as by expanding their portfolio to include wines that have personal meaning for them.
Metisse means a blend of cultures, reflecting Melka’s background in French and American winemaking. Philippe has been making wine in the US since the early 1990’s including a position at Ridge, which is where he met Cherie. Since then, he has embraced the California lifestyle as well as the wine styles, making “vibrant”, high toned wines.
The flagship wine 2007 Melka Metisse Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($125) is from the Jumping Goat Vineyard in Saint Helena on the western alluvial fan. A blend of cabernet, 12% merlot and 3% petite verdot, it is a classic, high expression cabernet sauvignon with lifted black currant and cassis aromas, hints of cocoa and cedar and concentrated black fruit. This full-bodied wine has finesse, with elegant acidity, ripe tannins and long, mineral finish (375 cases produced). Their entry wine Melka CJ Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($48) is named after their two children, Chloe and Jeremy. This is a full-bodied, fruit-driven cabernet sauvigon wine with pronounced blueberry and blackberry fruit, supple tannins, balanced acidity and long finish. 1,300 cases produced.
Their two new Melka Metisse wines are merlot and cabernet franc blends, reflecting their love of St.-Emilion wines. One of them is in fact a St.-Emilion Grand Cru, the other a Knights Valley from Sonoma, and each distinctly reflects their place of origin and vintage. The 2007 Melka Metisse St.-Emilion is 70% merlot and 30% cabernet franc which is a typical blend from that region. It has a complex nose of exotic spice, dark earth, hint of leather and plum fruit. This medium-bodied wine has an elegant balance of fresh acidity and black cherry fruit, fine tannins and length. The oak is finely integrated in part due to barrel fermentation of the merlot. The production was about 150 cases and will be released on Bastille Day on July 14th.
The 2007 Melka Metisse Knights Valley which is 65% merlot and 35% cabernet franc is a bigger, fruit-driven wine, full of dark plum and blackberry fruit matched by a firm structure borne from high-elevation cabernet franc planted on steep slopes and shallow soils. This is a wine that will continue to improve with age. Production was about 150 cases but is planned to grow to 800. The wine will be released in the fall.
The look of the label has changed dramatically with this vintage, with Philippe’s eyes peering out from the label. It gives transparency to the brand and invites consumers to discover the real personality of the man behind some of Napa Valley’s premier labels including Lail Vineyard, Hundred Acre, Vineyard 29 and Cliff Lede.