The Bennett Valley (Sonoma) based Matanzas Creek Winery, owned by Jackson Family Farms (Kendall-Jackson, as they no longer prefer to be called), really does produce some extraordinary Merlot and Chardonnay. This little nook of Sonoma County seems to have a quirky not cold and not hot meso-climate that is particularly well-suited to Merlot, Chardonnay and Syrah - maybe even Sauvignon Blanc. One of the closer comparisons might actually be Dry Creek Valley, though the topography and soils are a bit different.
The Matanzas Creek Jackson Park Merlot is supposedly derived from clippings snipped from the vineyards of Chateau Petrus in Pomerol, and I'd be lying if I said the 2006 vintage didn't display that kind of class. This is a thrilling wine - full of raspberry fruit, but wrapped in a tight bundle of graphite, licorice, cherry and cola with a minerally, firm finish that tells you it's in no hurry to be opened. I can only think of a few California Merlots on par with this one - maybe Duckhorn or something from Origins Napa. Even at $50 a bottle, this is on par with some of the best from anywhere in America, including Washington, where Merlot really shines on a more consistent basis.
Sadly, KJ recently announced that they were moving this operation's winemaking facilities to their headquarters in Santa Rosa. It's an understandable cost-cutting move, but I recently became aware of the subtle charms of this property's Chardonnay and Merlot and I personally find it kind of sad. I hope the personality of this special place isn't lost.