Stonehaven Merlot 2004

Price: $9
Maker: Stonehaven Winery
Variety: Merlot
Packaging: Bottle, artificial cork
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

To complete our review of the inexpensive reds from Stonehaven Winery, we tried a bottle of Stonehaven Merlot 2004. It has an unusually full body for a Merlot, with a syrupy smoothness in the mouth. The flavor is soft and fruity, with cherry, plum, and blueberry notes. Tannins and oak add complexity, and the finish adds a hint of lingering tannin and spice. We found this sample for under $5, which is certainly one of the more astounding merlot bargains if you can find it.

Like the Stonehaven Shiraz Cabernet we just sampled, this wine benefitted from plenty of time to breathe. In recent months, we’ve seen the Stonehaven reds ranging in price from just under $10 to under $5, sometimes in the same store. They are all a reasonable value at $9, but when they are under $5 it’s time to stock up for every day drinking.

Little Penguin Merlot 2004

Price: $7
Maker: Little Penguin
Variety: Merlot
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

The Little Penguin Merlot 2004 is the second variety we’ve tried from Little Penguin, and. like the Shiraz we sampled, it’s a pleasing, accessible, and economical wine. For a Merlot, it’s unusually full. Its aroma is pleasantly fruity if a bit weak, and its smooth, rounded flavor is full of cherry with a hint of vanilla. The cherry continues into the prolonged finish, and blends with light pepper.

Cheap Wine Reviews liked this wine too.

At Box Wines, we’re impressed by Little Penguin – they seem to produce eminently drinkable red wines that will appeal to novice wine drinkers but not offend the more serious palate. I tried the Little Penguin Personality Test and, oddly enough, turned out to be a Merlot. Inasmuch as Merlot is my least favorite red, this was a bit distressing. Nevertheless, if I had to be a Merlot, I could do a lot worse than Little Penguin.

Folie à Deux Ménage à Trois Red 2003

Price: $10
Variety: Blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: Bottle, natural cork
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

The amusing name of Ménage à Trois Red comes from it being a blend of three different wines: Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. According to the maker, Folie à Deux, the three wines are aged separately in barrels, blended, and then aged again.

The 2003 vintage definitely favors the Zinfandel portion of the blend. The aroma is floral and fruity. The wine has a soft texture and is dominated by a plummy fruitiness that brings a surprising sweetness to the wine. The rounded flavor leads to a somewhat spicy and lingering finish. Ménage à Trois Red wine has the advantage of appealing to wine drinkers who might normally wrinkle their noses at a dry Merlot or Cab, although it lacks the complexity of a great Zin.

Another opinion comes from Sean at the More is Less blog: “it’s not complex, but for grape juice, it’s not bad…”