Yesterday, I made a pledge of sorts to stop Maligning Merlot, and I take my pledges seriously.
Well, “seriously” is a relative concept.
I tend to keep most of my pledges, at least most of the pledges that I want to keep.
This time I am serious, though. So serious that when my friend in Dry Creek Valley let me know that he would be bottling his Merlot this weekend, I knew I had to jump on a plane and get out there to help.
Well, “help” is a relative concept.
After I agreed to come out and “help” I realized that the most complicated action I have ever taken in a winery is opening a door. I am not sure how much “help” I can provide. I certainly won’t be supplying any knowledge of the process, but if heavy things need to be moved, I am pretty sure I could handle that.
I am not all that worried about it since the bottling is actually being referred to as a “party” and thus I am pretty confident that the “work” required will be fairly manageable.
With all of that in mind, I thought I would publish a few more Merlot tasting notes today. Yesterday, I focused on wines that were under $30 a bottle, but still offered considerable “bang for the buck.” Today, we ratchet it up a notch or two (maybe all the way up to eleven) with three stellar wines that could certainly fall in the “special occasion” category.
2011 Miner Family Winery Merlot Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa Valley: Retail $46. 83% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petite Verdot. On their website, Miner classifies this wine as a “Bordeaux-style red” and I would have to wholeheartedly agree. Far from being an overly-opulent “New World” style Merlot, this is refined if not elegant. Dark red fruit is combined with black (and a hint of green) pepper, both very much at home on the right bank. The wine is wonderfully restrained and full of depth–I do believe that this is close to how Merlot was intended to be. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2013 Passaggio Coplan Vineyard Merlot Sonoma County: Retail $52. I have a degree of familiarity with Cindy Cosco and her Passaggio wines, but this was my first time trying her Merlot. After trying the rich and opulent Miner, this came off as reserved or even austere. We are getting ready to move to Texas (I still have trouble writing that), so I left it for a bit and packed a few boxes. Coming back a while later, this wine is nothing short of fantastic. Make no mistake, the prominent acidity is screaming for food, but even alone, it is a treat. Subtle fruit and a hint of tobacco, after a couple of hours open, this was absolutely singing. With a bit of patience or a good decant, this will show you what Merlot can, no, should be. Whoa. Outstanding, 93-95 Points.
2013 Ehlers Estate Merlot Napa Valley: Retail $55. 95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc. It was a beautiful day here in Philadelphia. A day in which I left work early and went out for a bike ride. A day where my wife, a pediatrician, left for a few days for a conference. I made sure to be home in time to greet my boys getting home from school, though, since that is what good parents do, right? Well, son #1 came home with a 103º fever and the younger came home with a rash all over his body. And my wife would not answer her phone. After getting the right medicine to be ingested by the right kid, and then tucking them into bed, I opened this bottle. You can call me a lot of things, but hopefully “idiot” is not one of them. This wine, while young, is fabulous: big and opulent without being over-bearing, an amazing nose of cassis, dark cherries, and a cappuccino element. On the palate, rich, full, and deep. Oh my. I just checked on the boys and they are sleeping peacefully, which leaves some more time for this Merlot. That is what good parents do, right? Outstanding. 92-94 Points.