Christie Kiley on March 23, 2015 0 Comments Many of you who might have read my wine reviews in the past might be well aware that I am the defender of the great Merlot grape and the lovely wine it can make. Merlot does not get nearly enough credit and it is high-time people stop snubbing their nose up at it. Really, for those of you who do? How many Merlot wines have you tried in your lifetime? I doubt many. This week, I bring you a Merlot that perhaps deserves your attention or at least consideration. It is from the Napa Valley and this is the home of some pretty terrific red wines, so at least that is your first note. Allow me to present the 2012 Peju Province Merlot. The Family of Peju The Peju family and their estate are located in the Rutherford appellation of the Napa Valley and they have been making wine there for over thirty years. Anthony Peju, the founder of the winery came to Napa in the early eighties and purchased about thirty acres of land with his wife. Anthony was born on the Caspian Sea and spent his life in France, England and eventually made his way to Los Angeles. When he was studying film at UCLA, he met is then, future wife, Herta. She encouraged him to start a winery after a few businesses together including landscaping companies, florist stores and the buying and selling of properties. They both knew that location was going to be the key element in selecting a property for vineyards, so they decided upon the thirty-acre plot in Rutherford next to Robert Mondavi. Today, another generation is taking the reins and helping out with the family business and their two daughters, Lisa and Ariana are helping out in many aspects. Lisa is the oldest of the two daughters and she is the marketing girl for the winery, traveling much and organizing wine dinners and going to trade events and keeping relationships with retailers. She has been living on the property since she was six years old and when she was not in school, she was in the vineyards in the evenings and weekends. She has a degree in marketing and graphic design and is fluent in French which helps out a bit spreading the word about her family’s wines in other parts of the world. Ariana, alongside her sister have been in the vineyards and worked harvests growing up each year and they were the first faces of Peju welcoming guests to their tasting room. From an earlier age, Ariana chose what she might do to work with her family winery. She has overseen many current aspects of Peju and their business operations including her work on many of the environmental aspects. She began the ‘Harvesting the Sun’ project, installing over 700 solar panels over ten-thousand square feet of the winery’s roof, supporting thirty-five percent of their energy. The cleaning products are environmentally safe and the packing is recyclable and biodegradable. Herta, the lady behind the beginnings of Peju has left her loving mark all over the estate in the beautiful gardens and even on their signature wine. She was born in Austria and at the age of five, her and her parents moved to Venezuela while two brothers stayed behind in post-World War II Austria. After thirteen years in South America, she learned Spanish and moved up in education with a plan to go back to Europe and attend medical school. Unfortunately, the school where her transcripts were kept was in a fire and it was impossible for her to attend any European College. It was then her life changed and she began to work as an apprentice in a photo studio and her and her mother made plans to immigrate to the US. Arriving in New York in 1962 and soon after in Los Angeles, she worked in a photo studio and dental office. She wanted to get outside the city as her passions lied more in working in the soil with floral shops and nurseries and when her and Tony got married she thought a winery would be a good idea. The couple’s first vintage was in 1982 and they opened for sales in 1985. What began as a modest thirty-acre estate is now over 450 throughout the Napa Valley and they make over 35,000 cases of wine per year. It is truly a family business with a rich story and multi-talented family. Why You Should Try the Wine This is a lush Merlot and if it was put in a blind tasting, you might not even believe it is one. The rich layers of black currant, anise, plum with essence of vanilla are mouthwatering and carry on through the palate with mouthwatering texture and softly-balanced tannins. It is the perfect wine to have on hand for the last weeks of winter that linger on to go with your favorite warm-your-belly-and-soul meals.