Category Archives: Merlot

Merlot and Blends

Fall Creek Meritus 2006

Fall Creek MeritusPrice: $39
Maker: Fall Creek Vineyards, Tow, Texas
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot blend
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 15.9%
Our Rating: 9.3 out of 10

I pulled a bottle of Fall Creek Meritus 2006 off my shelf without knowing anything about it, other than the fact that it was prominently labeled as a Texas wine. That’s not necessarily the most promising introduction. When I uncorked it and tasted this blend, though, I was surprised in a big way. The wine was very dark garnet in color, and its aroma was mostly spicy with some tobacco and clove notes. The taste is what blew me away. This blend is BIG, with lots of black cherry and blackberry leading into an oaky finish with robust tannins. This wine really expands in the tasting, with a long finish.

Fall Creek describes their Meritus in this way: Continue reading

Peregrine Hill Merlot 2006

Price: $11
Maker: Peregrine Hill, Fort Stockton, Texas
Varietal: Merlot
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 12%
Our Rating: 8.9 out of 10

A Texas Merlot? Peregrine Hill Merlot 2006 is just that, and does the Lone Star state proud. Despite having an unusually low alcohol content for a Merlot, this wine is long on flavor. It has a big raspberry and blackberry start, and segues into an oaky, peppery finish with tannins that are just enough to add to the complexity.

This is apparently a product of Ste. Genevieve Wines of Fort Stockton, Texas’s largest winery. From that page,

Their wines universally receive a great reception. The winery’s most decorated wine is the Sauvignon Blanc, a light, dry, white wine. The Ste. Genevieve Chardonnay continues to be one of their most popular.

Tompkins finds their wines fit all occasions. He explains, “The Ste. Genevieve label provides wines which range from casual table wines to those that can accompany fine meals, all at a good value.”

I can agree with the value part. This may not be a wine as big as Texas (few Merlots are), but it’s a good ambassador for the state.

Red Wines and Seafood? Yes!

Seafood and Red Wine

Some of us are red wine people, and face a dilemma when dining on fish or other sea creatures: traditional seafood menu pairings always involve white wines. An interesting article by “Unashamedly Creative” suggests some unexpected pairings with traditional reds:

Merlot for Tuna, Marlin

Merlot is our first fishy friend and works incredibly well with tuna and marlin. Whether it is steaks on the barbecue after a deep sea fishing expedition, or working with Mediterranean style vegetables and salads alongside marlin or tuna based dishes, a bottle of red wine such as merlot is just the ticket.

I like that pairing and have actually used it. Merlots tend to be on the lighter side, and tuna is hardly a delicate fish.

Pinot Noir with Salmon, Lobster

Pinot Noir is another tuna lover who extends its range to lobster and salmon of all kinds, especially natural, baked or grilled. Beyond the standard pinot noir and salmon nibbles, the lovely light nature of Tasmanian Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir coupled with its unique smooth cherry tang makes for an awesome combination for several different varieties of salmon or if tuna steak is your treat, you cannot go past the Yarra Valley favourite of Blue Diamond Label Pinot Noir.

The author goes on to suggest matching Shiraz to smoked salmon, and Rosé for just about any kind of seafood. These suggestions are a bit more tenuous, in my opinion. Shiraz wines can be quite bold, but so, I suppose, can smoked salmon. And I’m not a big Rosé fan, though I can see why the author would suggest it goes well with many kinds of seafood.

And for the most delicate seafood, I’d still recommend the traditional white wine pairings. A fine filet of sole, for example, would get blown out by just about any red; stick with a Sauvingon Blanc or perhaps a Pinot Grigio.

Yalumba Premium Selection Cabernet Merlot 2009

Price: $9
Maker: Yalumba, Angaston, Australia
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot Blend
Packaging: 2 liter box, push-button spigot
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 6 out of 10

One sip of Yalumba Premium Selection Cabernet Merlot 2009 transported me back to a lovely afternoon in Venice. Unfortunately, the memory was of a cheap, almost undrinkable bulk red wine poured from a stainless steel tank at the cost of a couple of euros for a liter and a half. (Rather than waste a bottle on that stuff, they pour it into a recycled plastic water bottle.) The setting was amazing, the wine, not so much.

Here’s the rest of the story. While traveling to Australia on business, I stopped into a “bottle shop” to explore the local retail scene. At least in downtown Sydney, wine seems to be sold in smaller shops vs. the big-box stores that one finds in the states. Recalling that Australia was the birthplace of boxed wine, I was surprised that only one brand, Yalumba, was represented with several varietals. Then again, there were just a few dozen bottled varieties. I picked up a box of the Cab-Merlot, which was nicely packaged in a 2-liter cask. The 2-liter size is nice, as it is compact and will reduce the boredom from having to finish a four-bottle equivalent 3-liter box.

Onto the wine itself… The earthy berry nose was weak and not promising. The first sip was a disappointment. A harsh off-note overwhelms what might be reasonable blackberry and cinnamon flavors and a not unpleasant tannic finish. The effect was rather prune-like. The wine seemed to improve slightly with extended breathing, but not enough to merit actually buying the stuff again.

It’s odd that one can find more, and better, Australian box wines in the States than in downtown Sydney. Of course, the shop that I visited was quite small. Perhaps on my next trip I can arrange an expedition to a bigger store.

Killer Juice Merlot 2006

Price: $19
Maker: Killer Juice Vineyards, Ripon, California
Varietal: Merlot
Packaging: 3-liter box, twist spigot
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.6 out of 10

Killer Juice Central Coast Merlot 2006 is another in one of my favorite series of box wines, the Killer Juice/Angel Juice lineup. This medium-bodied Merlot has a juicy flavor, mostly blackberries, with some vanilla and plum. Its finish is long, with black pepper and robust tannins.

Killer Juice now has a website, though at time of posting it consists of only a splash page.

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.

Folie à Deux Ménage à Trois Red 2006

Menage a Trois RedPrice: $10
Maker: Folie à Deux Winery, St. Helena, Napa County, California
Varietal: Blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: Bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Folie à Deux Ménage à Trois Red 2006 is a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon that most heavily favors the Zin side of its heritage. It has a nice aroma of spicy berries. It’s flavor is jammy, with strawberries, raspberries, and chocolate notes, and the finish is slightly peppery. This red wine leans toward the sweet side a bit.

We found a few other wine bloggers who have tried Menage a Trois Red. Budget Vino said, “This wine is overly sweet- so much so that I questioned whether I would be able to finish the glass I poured and salvage my $10 investment.” The Wine Cask Blog liked it a bit more, saying, “It delivers easy drinkability and simple, fruity tastes and smells. Structurally it is unsophisticated but not poor. A good every-day value wine.” Yoav thought it “went down nicely.” And, G&D’s mother-in-law recommended she try Menage a Trois, much to G&D’s delight.

The last vintage of this wine we tried was Folie à Deux Ménage à Trois Red 2003.

Cavit Merlot Trentino 2005

Cavit Trentino MerlotPrice: $10
Maker: Cavit S.C., Trento, Italy
Varietal: Merlot
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 12.5 %
Our Rating: 8.6 out of 10

Cavit Merlot Trentino 2005 starts with a mild berry and licorice nose. Its flavor is very juicy, with strawberry and cherry notes. The finish is a bit astringent.

According to the Cavit Collection website,

In Trentino, this variety has found a particularly favorable environment and has become one of the region’s more abundantly cultivated red grapes. The cradle of production is represented by the vineyards of Trentino’s Valle Lagarina (Lagarina Valley) with other locales including Avio, Ala, Serravalle, Mori, Villalagarina, and Pomaroloe Nomi and only 100% merlot grapes are used.

Overall, we found Cavit Merlot Trentino 2005 quite drinkable, particularly if you like fruitier and jucier reds. It’s fine for every day drinking or party fare.

Santa Rita 120 Merlot 2006

Santa Rita 120 MerlotPrice: $10
Maker: Viña Santa Rita S.A., Santiago, Chile
Varietal: Merlot
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 14.1%
Our Rating: 8.9 out of 10

Santa Rita 120 Merlot 2006 is a big, bold red, almost un-Merlot-like in its boldness and complexity. Its nose is pleasant but ordinary, with ripe raspberry and vanilla notes. On the palate, this Merlot starts off with the slightly sweet, rounded fruitiness of cherries and plums. As it lingers on the palate, the flavors intensify, with oak and balanced tannings coming to the fore. This flavor accelleration isn’t all that common, and it was nice to find in this Chilean Merlot. The alcohol content of this wine is shown as 14.1% on the label and 14.5% on the winery’s website – either is high for a Merlot, a fact which may explain part of the wine’s robust flavor.

The Santa Rita winery “was founded in 1880, by a distinguished entrepreneur of those times, Mr. Domingo Fernández Concha in the area of Alto Jahuel.” The 120 series, which the website lauds for its “freshness… youthness [sic]… consistency,” is named for 120 Chilean patriots, led by the improbably-named General O’Higgins, sought refuge in the cellars of Santa Rita as they fought for independence from Spain. It’s a good thing the cellars weren’t stocked with this Merlot – Chile’s independence might have been stalled for years!

Concannon Central Coast Merlot 2006

Concannon Central Coast MerlotPrice: $9
Maker: Concannon Vineyard, Livermore & San Luis Obispo, California
Varietal: Merlot
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.7 out of 10

Concannon Central Coast Merlot 2006 starts with a big licorice nose, and its flavor features raspberry, strawberry, and a bit of tart cherry. It’s not an overly complex Merlot, but it’s eminently drinkable. Concannon wines tend to hit our “sweet spot,” so to speak – big and fruity – and this one comes pretty close. The last vintage we tasted of this wine was Concannon Central Coast Merlot 2003, and it was a very nice wine too.

The Concannon website doesn’t have cute animals, flash games, or other fussy stuff. Nevertheless, you’ll find a good description of their full lineup of wines. The wine hasn’t drawn much blog attention, but we found a few mentions. The Wine Cask Blog tried the 2004 vintage and liked it a log, posting that the wine “is a nice value even at twice the price…really quite tasty and easily quaffable.”

We hope to be reporting on some more Concannon juicy red wines soon – this one was a nice treat.