• Producer: Amuse Bouche - read about the Estate
  • Winemaker: Heidi Barrett
  • Region (AVA): Napa (Napa Valley)
  • Blend: 92% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc
  • Vintage production: 725 cases
  • Winery location: St Helena
  • Owners: John Schwartz and Heidi Barrett
  • First vintage: 2002
  • Drinking window: 2021-2045


About The Wine


Crafted in the Pomerol style, Amuse Bouche 2018 is a blend of 92% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc from the Estate vineyards in the east Rutherford hills of Napa Valley. The fruit was picked in three stages on 17th and 29th September, and 18th October. The 2018 growing season was ideal — long and mild, with very few viticultural obstacles. Amuse Bouche 2018 exudes flavours of bright black plums, kirsch, red licorice, mocha beans, melted dark chocolate, fresh mushrooms, violets and clove spice.


With a 15 year tenure (1992-2006) as winemaker for Screaming Eagle, Heidi is a true Napa legend. For Amuse Bouche, she took inspiration from her love of the great Châteaux of Pomerol to produce a Merlot of elegance, poise and refinement that would deliver in spades at release while retaining great cellaring potential. Her fruit comes from a secretive vineyard hidden in the foothills of the Vaca Mountains, above Rutherford, which has the perfect combination of clay, gravel and volcanic soils to give the Amuse Bouche its complexity and structure.


Each vintage sees a different artist invited to paint a unique label. Past artists include the legendary actor Tony Curtis, and former assistant to Andy Warhol, the ‘Prince of Pop Art’ Steve Kaufman. Amuse Bouche commissioned renowned New Orleans artist James Michalopolous to create their 2018 label art, a culinary-inspired piece entitled ‘Fish Swish’. Born in 1951 in Pennsylvania, James was drawn to New Orleans in 1981 in search of hippie bohemian culture in America. He began sketching artists and musicians, houses and street corners. Fascinated with the duality of beauty and decay, he adopted the architecture of the city as his muse. He captured the spirit and the essence of his subject in layer upon layer of thick impasto paint. His portraits of shotgun houses and creole cottages brimmed with colour and energy. This body of work, infused with Michalopolous' singular style, came to represent for the world the gritty, vibrant, alluring image of the Big Easy; and it established him as the most influential living artist in the region.


Michalopolous' current paintings grapple with the notion of elemental biological life and the evidence of cohabitation with nature. His work has been shown extensively in the U.S. and abroad and is featured in numerous public and corporate collections, including Universal Studios, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the New Orleans Museum of Art. His work also enlivens the homes of Bruce Willis, Jackson Browne, John Goodman, Linda Hamilton, Bonnie Raitt, Sharon Stone, Aaron Neville, Emmylou Harris and many others.


James splits his time between New Orleans and France. In fact, this is the scene, in James' words, that inspired ‘Fish Swish’: “It's early evening, mid-September in Burgundy. This is the terrace spectacle: simple food and fine wine. I find myself lost in time — no, in the timeless. It is my purgatory.”



Amuse Bouche Merlot 2018

  • "The 2018 Proprietary Red Blend Amuse Bouche is composed of 92% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc. Deep garnet-purple in color, it bursts from the glass with bombastic scents of ripe black plums, boysenberries and Black Forest cake with hints of Morello cherries, star anise, cardamom and red roses, plus a touch of garrigue. The medium to full-bodied palate is an exercise in poise, delivering loads of vibrant black fruit and exotic spice flavors with bold freshness plus exquisitely ripe, rounded tannins, finishing with fantastic length and perfume. Absolutely stunning Merlot!”

    98 points, Lisa Perrotti-Brown (The Wine Advocate, Nov. 2020)