Cameron Hughes Lot 250 Meritage 2009

Cameron Hughes Lot 250 Meritage 2009Price: $8
Winery: Cameron Hughes Wine, Geyserville, California
Varietal: Meritage
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 14.6%
Our Rating: 9.0 out of 10

Cameron Hughes Lot 250 Meritage 2009 is a big, tasty red wine! It is fruity up front, with cherry and blueberry flavors, but maintains some complexity as it eases into a long, peppery finish with chewy tannins. If there’s a flaw, it’s that the nose is surprisingly minimal. It’s a Meritage, which means it’s a red blend that must adhere to a set of specifications. Continue reading “Cameron Hughes Lot 250 Meritage 2009”

Nine Points Meritage 2006

Nine Points MeritagePrice: $10
Maker: Chateau Diana, Healdsburg, California
Varietal: Meritage
Packaging: 750 ml bottle
Alcohol: 14%
Our Rating: 9.1 out of 10

Nine Points Meritage is a sleeper. Not only is it hard to find out any information about Nine Points Winery, but the wine itself is quite bland at first sip. Fortunately, I kept it open for a while, and after a very long breathing period the wine came into its own. This Meritage has a dark ruby color and a ripe cherry nose with faint woody and floral notes. On the palate, it’s jammy and complex, with a long, slightly peppery, finish.

It turns out that Nine Points is an offshoot of the well-regarded Stags Leap winery. Reviews around the Web have been quite good. The Cork Scrooge comments, “This wine could easily be mistaken for being $25 to $30 or more per bottle.” WineKnow called it a “pleasant, easy drinking, red Bordeaux-style meritage, with dark likeable fruity flavors soft tannins and a velvety finish.”

If you can find Nine Points Meritage 2006, pick up a bottle. It’s an amazing value. And, if it doesn’t delight at first, give it some more air.

Franciscan Oakville Estate Magnificat 2003

Price: $50
Maker: Franciscan Oakville Estate, Rutherford, California
Varietal: Red Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 14.1 %
Our Rating: 8.9 out of 10

We opened our bottle of Franciscan Oakville Estate Magnificat 2003 as a Christmas dinner treat to accompany a standing rib roast. This is a more costly wine than we usually comment on here, and we looked forward to experiencing a big red – this is a Meritage blend, ostensibly the best of the best, and it weighs in at a hefty 14.1% alcohol level, higher than a typical cab. While I wasn’t able to track down the blending proportions for the 2003 Magnificat, the 2005 vintage was almost three-quarters Cabernet Sauvignon with almost all of the rest Merlot; the Malbec and Petit Verdot were only a percent or two each.

This Meritage blend has a deep ruby color, and offers a bright and explosive berry aroma. On the palate, plum and black cherry notes combine with chocolate. There wasn’t a lot of pepper or spice in the finish, but the finish was long with plenty of chewy tannins. Although I uncorked the wine well in advance of the first pour, it wasn’t until the bottle was partially consumed and the wine had still more air that it really came into its own. I’d suggest ample breathing opportunity, or even decanting.

Around the Web, Grape Thoughts found the 2001 Franciscan Magnificat to be “magnificent.”

Overall, this wine didn’t disappoint – it offered good structure and complexity, and certainly held its own with flavorful prime rib. Would I run out and buy more at $50? Hard to say. Despite the fact that expensive wine tastes better, for my palate, at least, the Franciscan Magnificat 2003 wasn’t that much better than some wines costing half as much or less. (On the other hand, perhaps I need to spend more time drinking wines in this price range and higher to expand my appreciation for their presumed subtleties.) In any case, if the price isn’t off-putting, you’ll find this wine to be a solid choice.

Estancia Paso Robles Meritage 2004

Estancia Paso Robles MeritagePrice: $25
Maker: Estancia Winery, Soledad, California
Variety: Meritage – blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (61%), Merlot (30%), Petit Verdot (9%)
Packaging: 750 ml Bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 14.5%
Our Rating: 9 out of 10

Estancia Paso Robles Meritage 2004 is an interesting and tasty wine. First, a bit about the label. “Meritage” isn’t a varietal. Rather, it’ a controlled designation originally intended as California’s answer to Bordeaux. Meritage is actually a trademark that can be used only by members of the Meritage Association and put only on wines meeting specific criteria. The wine must be a blend of at least two grapes from a list that includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and others. In addition, the association expects that wineries will use the label only on their finest blend, and will limit the production of that blend.

Our impression of the Estancia Meritage is that the winery has indeed followed the guidance of the Meritage Association and used the label on a blend they consider superior. This is a big wine that seems almost like a Zin with its powerful nose, big flavor, and relatively high alcohol content. This wine’s aroma is full of cherries, spice, and oak. On the palate, it starts with more cherries, blackberries, and a hint of mocha, leading into a lengthy finish that’s a balance of tannins, oak, and mild pepper. This is exactly the kind of red wine that we’re partial to, and pouring the last glass from the bottle was a sad moment. Pair this with beef or other strongly flavored entrees that need a red wine that can hold its own.

Hunting around wine blogs for commentary, we found that The Wino Club awarded Estancia Paso Robles Meritage 2004 a “double gold” when they tasted nine different Meritages.

Overall, this Meritage is a red wine worth trying. Our bottle came as a gift at our annual Christmas party – a thoughtful gift indeed!