Merlot & Me


October has been declared Merlot month by some unknown entity.

I read this recently so it must be true:

“Beginning October 1, 2017 more than 100 Merlot-producing wineries from California, Oregon, Washington, and around the world, join together for #MerlotMe, a month-long, global movement celebrating the noble variety.”

Well, never one to bypass a celebration, I’ve been thinking about the greatest, the finest Merlot in my experience.

It is the 2002 Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot tasted in 2015.

“Gorgeous, seamless, harmonious, rich with a fantastic finish, it was amazing and was obviously at its peak, but showed no signs of its age.”

It wasn’t just remarkable for its age, it was great.

Of course, normal people don’t cellar Merlot for a dozen years. But over the years I have set aside various wines to see how they age beyond the norm.  Just recently, I uncorked the 2000 Phelps “Insignia” which was another beauty: seamless and lovely, but without the drama of the 02  Duckhorn Merlot.

To be honest, very few of my long-aged wines turn out to be exciting. I’ve found most 1998 Cabernets, for example, to be disappointing after a decade or more.

But back to Merlot and Me and My Musings

Other than Duckhorn, my favorite Merlots in recent vintages have been Pride Mountain, Pine Ridge, Whitehall Lane, Shafer and Pahlmeyer.

Historically, I wrote a feature article about California Merlot when fewer than ten wineries produced a varietal. And most people pronounced it “mere lot.”

I’ll never forget tasting Merlot from barrels with pioneering winemaker Ric Forman at Sterling Vineyards and spitting into the drains below.

Besides Forman, Warren Winiarski was a major advocate of Merlot and I have fond memories of his 1974 Merlot. Phil Baxter of Rutherford Hill also helped put Merlot on the wine map.

In the late 80s, Beringer made several super Merlots from the Bancroft Vineyard on Howell Mountain. The ‘86 and ‘89 were outstanding.

Sorry millennials for my meandering down memory lane and for the following reference to the movie “Sideways”:

“Screw you, Miles and your childish hissy fit. Merlot is here to stay. At least this month.”


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