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A Love Letter To Merlot

No longer maligned, Merlot is a wine to tumble in delight in with

Wear your Merlot heart for your sleeve


Divulge Merlot to wine drinkers and likewise you’re at chance of bring together one of two reactions: an ogle roll or an appreciative say. The dilapidated is a hangover from the 2004 movie, “Sideways” whereby the precious persona, a depressed wine snob with a failed profession and marriage, famously derided the wine, whereas simultaneously exalting Pinot Noir. The so-known as “Sideways Originate,” as reported in a 2009 gape in the Journal of Wine Economics, was once linked to a 2% drop in sales for three consecutive years following the film, whereas sales of the film’s more splendid grape big title rose 16%.

Nonetheless the protagonist’s declaration was once now not exactly delight in the shot heard around the sector.

“The contemptuous phrases uttered by a fictional persona struggling with an [anxiety disorder] and below Xanax had no repercussions initiating air the U.S.,” says Max de Zarobe of Avignonesi Wines, Tuscan producers of the “Desiderio” Merlot. “In Europe, Merlot stays one of many most valued grapes.”

Allora! Enter the appreciative say, which comes from enthusiasts of the generous grape whose references harken now to now not a movie, but to the immense châteaus equivalent to Lafleur, Le Pin, Pétrus and Angélus in Pomerol—arguably the grape’s non secular dwelling.

“There appears to be like to be more or less a gap the build it feels delight in there are two drinkers of Merlot and they’re on the extremes,” says sommelier Kelli White, director of coaching at The Wine Center at Meadowwood, and author of Napa Valley Then & Now. “There are the of us that declare Merlot is now not frigid and they’d simply now not score to revisit that, and then there are the immense an educated [drinkers] who mediate Merlot is basically amazing and superior.”

Lengthy relegated to the position of a mixing grape with other Bordeaux kinds—Cabernet Sauvignon in explicit—Merlot by itself has historic roots in California and Washington Assert, and it’s particularly successful in Italy, anchoring rather a lot of the premium Big Tuscan wines. Stateside, the grape won recognition in the 1990s, sparked in fragment by 60 Minutes’ “French Paradox” document in 1991, leading to over planting in many areas exact to protect up with build a question to. When Sideways’ antihero disparaged the grape, some declare he wasn’t corrupt.

“Merlot got very smartly-liked and of us were planting it in each predicament with excessive tonnage and the usual did drop in some,” says David “Merf” Merfeld, who makes the “Premier” Merlot at Northstar Vineyard in Washington’s Columbia Valley. “Nonetheless that worked itself out, in negate that was once one exact upshot of the movie.”

To boot to his dangle circle of affiliates who ogle Merlot’s 2d coming, Merfeld noted “sommeliers are initiating to scheme abet abet to it and realize the usual doubtless.”

“Things scheme abet around in vogue and it’s Merlot’s time,” he stated.

Whereas Valentine’s Day is a exact time to give some pick on to Merlot, right here are seven producers who function that every body twelve months ‘round.

Circulation over Cabernet? Merlots from Napa can stand on their very dangle.



J.O. Sullivan Founders Reserve Rutherford Merlot, 2018. Winemaker Jeff Cole says the note for the signature Founder’s Reserve shows the most tasty soils and parcels, and the “time and attention that hotfoot into that.”

“Nobody blinks an ogle at that note for a Napa cab and we are making a Merlot that’s intelligent in the marketplace, competes with upper-tier Cabernet and might perhaps simply warrant the similar consideration because the others in the Cab camp,” he says.

Notes: Darkish and inky, this wine is marked by deep, successfully off sad fruits, layers of gloomy chocolate and dusted cocoa. Shaded plum and cherry are beautifully integrated with silky tannins and candy spice (21 months on 100% French oak). A complete wine now and will be in years to scheme abet. $290

Mira “Hyde Vineyard,” 2015. Mira winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez says he sees the aloof Merlot motion underfoot gaining momentum as producers delight in the nuances it will mumble when paid ethical attention. “We’ve got a cope with on how to grow Merlot and what we learned in the vineyard is translated in the winery,” he stated. “It obtained’t essentially knock Pinot off a pedestal, but as of us beef up their game, the curiosity is entirely going to grow and more producers will be willing to style comely Merlot. It’s entirely a topic of time.”

Notes: Seductive nostril of gloomy plum, candy oak spice and a splash of iodine adopted by tart cherry and plum, layers of milk chocolate and more iodine. A chunk of dusting of cocoa accompanies an natural superior existing that elevates the wine thru to the bring together. A completely handsome wine. $95

Tate “Spring Boulevard,” Reason Vineyard, 2018. “Merlot can in truth raise a strategy of predicament and we no doubt let the vineyard focus on,” says Suzanne Tate, who along with her husband David (formerly of Ridge Vineyards), makes a minute-production lighter style of the wine with grapes sourced from weak vines on the valley floor.

Notes. A nostril plump of untamed botanics—lavender, account and oregano. Intellectual unadulterated fruit in the mouth leaning toward the pink raspberry/currant/pomegranate spectrum, lighter chocolate tones, very mouthwatering. More round than successfully off and extremely willing to drink now. $60  

Washington Assert is a oldschool bearer for quality Merlot in the U.S.



Northstar “Premier” Columbia Valley 2018. The idea slack the Premier line, says David Merfeld, was once to bring together something that can perchance “push the envelope and declare this wine would age.” The restricted liberate, he says, “has a nuance that doesn’t hit you over the head delight in Cabernet, goes with food and serene has energy, flesh and fruit.”

Notes: Very floral nostril with a comely eucalyptus purchase. Lighter in shade, with very tart pink fruits—pomegranate, currant, pink plum skins. Light chalky tannins and a runt bit anise. This wine is more about nuance than energy and has quite rather a lot of lifestyles. $85

Leonetti Cellar Merlot Walla Walla Valley, 2019. Leonetti was once the precious industrial winery in Walla Walla and always is known as a Cabernet dwelling, says 2d-period winemaker Chris Figgins. “Nonetheless it was once Merlot that in truth build us on the arrangement for the length of the ‘90s and that changed issues for our industry.” Praising its capability to “stand by itself,” Figgins even goes as a ways to declare the grape “does better in Washington and, in explicit, Walla Walla than wherever else in the sector initiating air Pomerol—there’s the kind of purity of fruit that’s fascinating.”

Notes: Even with gloomy pink and sad fruits, this wine has a vivid expression with a marvelous, unmuddled line to the fruit. A nice acid backbone keeps this active in the mouth, and there’s a comely chalky dusting of tannins that makes me desire more. Very long, handsome bring together. $80

Chateau Ste. Michelle Ethos Reserve Merlot, 2018. “The pioneers of standard winemaking in Washington Assert as it will be identified Merlot as a grape that thrives in our wine-increasing areas,” says Brian Mackey, head pink winemaker at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, itself a style of pioneers and the springboard for rather a lot of the allege’s winemakers. “Our faith in our outstanding Merlot has never venerable… it continues to shine as a stand-by myself wine.” 

Notes. Earthy and textured, with quite rather a lot of in truth appropriate oak spice. Ripe and jammy sad fruits that play successfully with a deeper tannic improvement—more so than what you’d build a question to of in a Merlot. Chocolate and leather notes lend curiosity. Grapes are sourced from the Dineen Vineyard (55%) and the rest from the weak vine Icy Creek Vineyard. $55

Abeja Columbia Valley Merlot, 2019. Winemaker Dan Wampfler has been working with Merlot his complete profession, asserting it’s intrinsically good to Washington’s increasing instances. “Merlot [here] tends to be on the more fruit side than the earthy sorts in Europe. Nonetheless that’s now to now not declare there aren’t nuances it’s doubtless you’ll perchance bring together out of terroir.” He stands by the grape, asserting they don’t let a movie or a vogue pick what they desire to style or drink.

Notes:  Ripe pink fruits—pink plum, wild strawberry—partner up with tart cranberries in this satisfied wine. Properly integrated tannins and a dusting of mocha add a agreeable existing of curiosity. Every thing in the mouth is elevated by a vivid cedar existing and the wine finishes long and memorably. $50

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