Crimson color, less intense than the 2013 tasted at the same time; lighter nose than the 2013, cranberry comes through; raspberry, strawberry, plum on the palate.
The 2014 merlot, which did not benefit from grape sourcing exclusively from Russian River Valley, is exceptionally smooth, but simpler, less sophisticated and distinctive than the 2013, which had admirable complexity. Interestingly, it very nicely evolves with air and gets smoother and smoother.
In the world of mass market wine, the 2014 likely will be better received than the 2013 vintage. Thanks to the California drought, the 2014 vintage had to be sourced from several vineyards in Sonoma—Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and the Russian River Valley. All those locations struggled with lack of water, so 2014 was a difficult year all around. Difficult years can produce excellent wines because the vines had to struggle. Difficult years almost always reduce quantity, but they do not necessarily reduce quality for the vines that survive the trials. People who like straightforward, easy-on-the-palate merlots will prefer this to the 2013 vintage.
The Toad Hollow Merlot 2014 does not challenge your palate in same manner as the 2013 vintage; it emphasizes Toad Hollow’s ability to pour good wine no matter what the challenges. The 2014 has low tannin, average acidity, and is a very smooth easy drinker. Very smooth, I emphasize again. The 2013 version had some edges that could entertain experienced palates, while the 2014 is a please-the-average wine drinker effort. Nothing wrong with that. This demonstrates that even in the sophisticated, scientific wine world we now enjoy, climate, vintage, and terroir still significantly influence each year’s product.
I’ve told the interesting story behind Toad Hollow in several previous reviews. You can read those extensive notes by Googling “Toad Hollow gus clemens”, or simply scrolling down the Facebook page or visiting the website http://www.gusclemens.com.
There is nothing wrong with this 2014 effort, but it suffers from my having sipped the more complex, interesting, and challenging 2013 offering in the same tasting and evaluation session. Same time, I can’t stop thinking about the 2014’s marvelous smoothness and drinkability. $14-16
Second photo: Toad Hollow wine tasting room.