Colète is a Napa Valley merlot designed by Rajat Parr and Marie Vayron Ponsonnet. They find their inspiration in Pomerol, Merlot’s defining place and where Marie happened to grow up! The best Pomerol Merlots unite disparate characteristics—they are soft, round, and fleshy, yet also textured, structured, and sharp, with deep earthy flavors of plum, dark berries, and mineral.
The animating drive behind the Colète project is to find the best terroirs in Napa Valley for Merlot, and to produce high-quality wine from there, restoring honor to a once-fashionable grape that is still bashed today.
The first vintage, 2017, has been vinified using traditional Bordeaux methods, along with a minimalist approach in both vineyard and cellar. To allow this hands-off philosophy, Rajat and Marie had the firm conviction they needed certified organically grown vines. It took them about two years to find the grapes.
This wine was born from a friendship between a Pinot Noir lover and a woman raised on Merlot. Rajat and Marie met in 2014 during La Paulée in San Francisco. Marie had just moved to the United States to start her sommelier career in New York and had no inkling how much Rajat would impact her love for wine. Their acquaintance continued to impact Marie’s life, as she discovered Rajat’s Santa Barbara wines - Sandhi and Domaine de La Côte. In 2015, she joined Rajat’s team to work harvest as an intern. It was a life changing experience as she fell in love with California, never expecting to find wines with such terroir, texture, and complexity.
Of course, Marie was already familiar with viticulture and winemaking, as she grew up on her family’s vineyard, Château Bourgneuf, in Pomerol, France. Her father and sister, Xavier and Frédérique Vayron, still run the winery and make a classic Pomerol wine—vibrant and balanced, from soils of blue clay with traces of oxidized iron. Marie’s Pomerol origins, combined with a newfound love of California, inspired her to create a Merlot from Napa terroir.
It is hard to present Rajat Parr in few words, as he has influenced the industry on so many levels. After working the floor as a Wine Director for years, Rajat started his wine producing career in 2011 in partnership with winemaker Sashi Moorman. Their Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are some of the most balanced in California, and challenge the best Burgundies in that regard.
Though Raj has always revered classic Bordeaux, it’s still rare to see a bottle at a ‘somm’ get-together. Given the unfashionability of Bordeaux in sommelier circles, Marie often joked with Raj that one day they would produce a Pomerol style wine together in California. But behind the joke, the desire was real. To Marie’s great surprise, Raj was actually taking the idea seriously, which she learned when he announced to her that he’d found a great organic Merlot vineyard for them in Napa.
Colète and Bourgneuf are in a way ‘sisters’ in Raj and Marie’s story. They named their cuvee Colète after one of Bourgneuf’s parcels.