I pulled something old from the cellar this weekend to celebrate my wife's birthday and old friends visiting - a 2001 Duckhorn Howell Mountain Merlot. For many years this wine was labeled Merlot, but the winemakers always blended some Cabernet Sauvignon in for structure and complexity. In California, to call it Merlot it had to be 75% or more of Merlot, so in a move to allow better flexibility and vintage expression, it is now simply called "Howell Mountain Red Wine" and incorporates much more Cabernet Sauvignon.
This 2001 was still in infancy. The colour had not faded one smidge. The nose revealed earthy, mushroomy notes, but still lots of red and black fruit. Not decanted because the cork displayed a thick layer of sediment, I thought it may not benefit the wine, but in agreement with Robert Parker's June 2011 review, this wine has many, many years to still evolve. He suggests to give it another 2-3 and drink over the next 12-15. In the finish, the wine took an unexpected spike of acidity, but not in a bad way, just unexpected. Perhaps I should have decanted....oh well, live and learn.
Parker scored it 89+, and I have to agree, it is currently a few years still out of its prime drinking window. if you have some in your cellar, give them some more time.
All the best,