I hope you are as excited about tonight’s tastings as I am! We have some very interesting offerings from Bordeaux FR; Columbia Valley Washington and Napa Valley Calif., US; Beamsville Bench & Lincoln Lakeshore, ON; Hawkesbury, NZ; Languedoc FR and I’ve brought in extra for “afters”!
Focusing on a single varietal is an excellent way to deepen your appreciation of wine. It demonstrates how wines made from the same grape can taste very different depending upon such variables as soil type, microclimate, harvesting and aging.
While Merlot is made across the globe, there tends to be two main styles. The “International style” favored by many New World wine regions tends to emphasis late harvesting to gain physiological ripeness and produce inky, purple colored wines that are full in body with high alcohol and lush, velvety tannins with intense, plum and blackberry fruit. While this international style is practiced by many Bordeaux wine producers, the traditional “Bordeaux style” of Merlot involves harvesting Merlot earlier to maintain acidity and producing more medium-bodied wines with moderate alcohol levels that have fresh, red fruit flavors (raspberries, strawberries) and often leafy, vegetal notes
Merlot is one of the world’s most widely planted grape variety with plantings of the vine outpacing even the more well-known Cabernet Sauvignon in many regions. France is home to nearly two thirds of the world’s total plantings of Merlot.
It grows in many regions that also grow Cabernet Sauvignon but tends to be cultivated in the cooler portions of those areas. In areas that are too warm, Merlot will ripen too early. In the traditional Bordeaux blend, Merlot’s role is to add body and softness.
In the sandy, clay-limestone-based soils of Saint-Émilion, Merlot is usually blended with Cabernet Franc. In limestone, Merlot tends to develop more perfume notes while in sandy soils the wines are generally softer than Merlot grown in clay dominant soils. In Pomerol, where Merlot usually accounts for around 80% of the blend, the iron-clay soils of the region give Merlot more of a tannic backbone than what is found in other Bordeaux regions.
In food and wine pairings, the diversity of Merlot can lend itself to a wide array of matching options. Cabernet-like Merlots pair well with many of the same things that Cabernet Sauvignon would pair well with, such as grilled and charred meats. Softer, fruitier Merlots (particularly those with higher acidity from cooler climate regions like Washington State and Northeastern Italy) share many of the same food-pairing affinities with Pinot noir and go well with dishes like salmon, and mushroom-based dishes.
Try Merlot with hard cheeses: cheddar, manchego and gouda. Merlot tends not to go well with strong and blue-veined cheeses that can overwhelm the fruit flavors of the wine. The capsaicins of spicy foods can accentuate the perception of alcohol in Merlot and make it taste more tannic and bitter.
Wine rating -5 pts method
scoring: 1/5 = poor; 2/5=acceptable; 3/5 = good; 4/5 very good; 5/5= outstanding
Fruit: currant, blk cherry, plum
Floral: violet, rose
Spice: caramel, clove, bayleaf
Herbal: Bell pepper, green olive, blk olive
Secondary- less fruity more yeasty and oaky
Oak -light: Vanilla
Oak –heavy: oak, smoke, toast, tar
Tertiary -Aging (bottle)
Christian Moueix Merlot 2010; Bordeaux France AOC
#961227 V $15.60 13% 8 G/L
Grown on the right bank of the Dordogne, near the city of Lisbourne; by the prestigious winemaker Christian Moueix. President of the Negotiant House and overseer of several estates in St. Emilion and Pomerol, Chateaux Petrus, and Dominus in Napa Valley.
Always a blend, this Merlot (95%) is blended with Cabernet Franc (5%)
Ruby coloured with aromas are fruity and vegetal, of dark plum, black berries/cassis, olives, bitter dark chocolate, mocha and oak. Fruit is concentrated and tightly wound, acidity is refreshing and tannins are structured, dusty and smooth.
Andrew Rich Red Willow Vineyard 210 Merlot;
Columbia Valley, Washington
#408369 $32.95 14.1 % 4 G/L
Full bodied and smooth AndrewRichdotcom
Red Willow vineyard is within the Yakama Indian Reservation. One of the top vineyards in the state and one of the oldest. Sells to dozens of wineries. Cooler than other Washington AVA’s, this allows longer growing, longer ripening period produces grapes with brighter flavours and more elegant structure than vineyards from warmer sites. Harvest is three weeks later.
Soil is a mix of calcareous rocks: clay, loam, sand, sandstone and silt. Very well draining and arid desert climate. With 6″ of annual rainfall, irrigation is a must.
Med deep red colour. Aromas of plum, mocha, tobacco and spice. Smooth on the palate with flavours of plum, mocha, black fruit, black currant, and savory.
Peninsula Ridge AJ Lepp Vineyard, Merlot Reserve; Lincoln Lakeshore, (near Grimsby, Ontario)
#299222 $18.95 13.4% 12 G\L Single vineyard Merlot with 42 acres
Full bodied and smooth; Aged 12 months in French and American oak.
Aromas of ripe plums and tobacco, smoky cassis and red cherry. Flavours of soft plum, smoky cherry, herbal hints, cocoa fresh fruit and coffee. Quite ripe and silky. Lengthy soft finish.
very rich. lovely.
Featherstone Red Tail Merlot 2012; 20 Mile Bench appellation, Beamsville Bench (near Jordan Stn, Ontario)
#131540 $18.95 12.5% 4 G/L
Medium bodied and Fruity (cool climate)
Aromas of raspberry, cherry and plum, Flavours: raspberry, plums, licorice and spice. smooth with a long finish. After several introductions to wine club this wine remains a contender. A good solid tasty wine with complexity and good character.
Niagara Escarpment: 600 ft ridge 700 km long at 43 degrees latitude with a growing season of Languedoc and Bordeaux France. Soil is deep, rich clay (glaciers) limestone and shale. Offshore breezes keep a constant air flow, good air circulation and soil drainage. North facing slopes means year round temperature moderation.
Napa Cellars Merlot 2012, Sutter Home Winery;
Napa Valley California
#161299 $24.95 14.5% 4 G/L
Full bodied and smooooooth.
Smoky black currantdark ripe berries, caramel and chocolate cake aromas. Flavours of juicy ripe plums, berry compote, blackberry and cherry hint of dark chocolate and vanilla. Generous velvety mouthfeel with structured tannins. yummy yummy yummy. Very balanced: alcohol, acid and tannins
My favourite of the lot.
Mild Mediterranean climate, moderately cool and a well drained soil supports an extended growing season resulting in elegant complex and balanced wine. In between two mountain ranges (30 miles long and just a couple of miles wide)result in eroding soils. Sides of the valley soil is thinnest, oldest and least fertile. Valley floor dominated by deep fertile alluvial clays. Some deep but well drained bench lands on both sides of the valley. Climate: Northern California; the open Southern end of this narrow valley is 10 degrees cooler than the Northern end. Carneros (north) coolest limit of wine production. Both Bordeaux and Burgundy varietals cooled by winds and fog. Calistoga (south) is hot for late ripening Cabernet Sauvignon. As air is heated by long summer season it rises and draws in cooling drafts of ocean air.
Oyster Bay Merlot 2013; Hawkesbury New Zealand
#692343 $18.95 13% 6 G/L
Med bodied and Fruity (Moderate Climate)
Aromas of violet, blackberry and plum; black plum on the palate with sweet berry fruit spice and subtle oak. Somewhat lacking in complexity.
Temperate maritime climate with strong sunshine with cool ocean breezes and cool evenings. Low rainfall and high temperatures. Alluvial mix of soils- gravelly, free draining sub soils. Richest grapes in poorest soils means limited vine growth. Reliable and early ripening Merlot thrive.
Stainless steel tanks allows malolactic fermentation. Aged in french oak for 6 months.
LCBO#: 610857 7 G/L sugar 13.5% alc $14.95 France, By:Gabriel Meffre S.A.
Medium garnet colour; plums, black cherry, black pepper, fresh herbs and toasty oak notes on the nose;
dry, medium-bodied with a soft plum palate, tight tannins in a medium finish with a touch of spice.