94 Points- Robert Parker: A barrel sample, the medium to deep garnet-purple colored 2016 Merlot Blueline Estate Is redolent of plums, blackberries and black cherries with a spice box and fragrant earth undercurrent. The medium to full-bodied palate has a good amount of muscular, expressive black fruits with a solid backbone and great persistence.
83% Merlot, 10% Cabernet, 7% Malbec
17 months in 55% new French oak
The 2016 Blueline Estate Merlot follows the defining thread of the vintage—supreme balance. The signature aromatics of oily mandarin orange peel and Asian 5 spice, are interlaced with a mineral graphite and a band of high tone rose petal. The texture has a firm spine with a tight structural core, surrounded with a layer of silky fruit. Crème de cassis intermingles with dark sour cherry and an intriguing note of Asian hoisin. Deep and rich, yet alive with energy. A very complex layering of delicious fruit, wired with bright natural acidity and vibrant minerality. The finish is long and expansive. Amazingly approachable now, but it has the tannin and structural stuffing to age gracefully for a decade, or more.
The ashen soils of the upper bench of the estate, where Merlot is planted, are not typical of Merlot vineyards. Almost completely devoid of clay (very common for Merlot vineyards), these porous, mineral rich, nutrient poor soils yield incredible drainage leading to springtime water deficits, which result in a very small berry size. Smaller berries yield greater concentration/richness in the wines and firmer tannins. The resulting soils also impart a noticeable minerality, creating greater vibrancy to bring the density and richness alive.
Hourglass wines represent a cutting-edge, modern Napa Valley winemaking style. Ned Smith bought the property in 1976 and his goal quickly shifted from fruit trees to his favorite wine, Zinfandel, with the lofty hope of supplying grapes to local wineries in exchange for finished wine. The land was eventually taken over by son Jeff Smith. In 1992, Jeff enlisted his family friend - and former rock band cohort - Bob Foley as winemaker for their new venture. Like so many aspiring guitarists, Bob had kept his day job over the years, making wine and garnering countless accolades and rock-star status for such labels as Robert Foley Vineyards, Switchback Ridge, Pride Mountain, School House and Paloma. Bob continues to make all the Hourglass wines and has the deep purple-stained hands to prove it. The calluses, however, are as much from guitar playing as his meticulous cellar work. Then, Hourglass's inaugural release came with the 1997 vintage, a seminal Napa vintage by many critics' standards.
With the christening of the winery at Blueline and its distinct single-varietal wines, Hourglass has entered an exciting new phase of its evolution. A brand synonymous with terroir-driven, modern Napa wines of the highest caliber, its goal is and will always remain the same: To capture the essence of two of Napa Valley's most expressive vineyard sites in bottled form, and to have the honor of sharing them with you and your families for decades to come.