As we settle into the mid-part of October, there is one more thing to raise a glass to, Merlot. This month we raise a glass to the Right Bank of Bordeaux favorite that delivers juicy, fruit-forward approachability in every sip, in other words, it is time to #MerlotMe.
In the not-so-distant past, Merlot was America’s favorite red variety for wine drinkers. And today’s Merlot producers are actively working to make it so again. The Merlot variety showcases finesse and balance when included in a blend. The medium to full-bodied wine thrives in warm and cool climates and is easy to grow. Merlot produces balanced wines with luscious elegance and fruit-forward flavors of plum, fig, and cherry. It is the ideal option for red wine lovers who want a wine with character and complexity that is not as dense or tannic as its Bordeaux counterparts.
In a region dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley’s Duckhorn Vineyards has been a proponent of Merlot since Dan and Margaret Duckhorn began in 1978. Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot blends fruit from both cool and warm parts of the valley, from Calistoga to Carneros, ensuring the resulting wine balances a fruit-forward profile with ripe tannins and fresh acidity. The wine opens with floral notes of violets and cherry blossom, leading to flavors of black plum, blueberry, black cherry, and licorice. Aged for 15 months in partially new French oak, the lush, layered wine has just the right touch of spice and cedar on the finish.
St. Supery Vineyards and Winery in Napa’s Rutherford AVA delivers a complex estate grown Merlot that will easily please any Cabernet Sauvignon drinker, and all Merlot lovers. Dense and rich with structure and character from the winery’s mineral-intense, dusty Rutherford soils. Aged for 19 months in partially new French oak, the wine is the perfect combination of black and blue fruit, with crushed stone, pencil led, dried roses, and milk chocolate. This is the perfect wine to pair with slow smoked brisket, grilled ribeye steaks, or roasted portobello mushrooms.
Napa’s Markham Vineyards made a commitment to Merlot not long after Duckhorn, releasing their first vintage of Napa Valley Merlot in 1980. Today the winery farms 260 acres of vines with a focus on sustainability across the region. Markam Napa Valley Merlot is crafted from predominantly estate grown fruit revealing the nuance and character the historic winery brings to each of their selections. With balance and approability, the wine reveals layers of ripe fig, black plum, with toasted baking spice and black licorice flavors lingering on the finish.
With a blend of fruit from various regions of Napa, including mineral-rich Rutherford and the rugged Vaca Mountain range, the historic Cakebread Winery showcases a brawny, textured Merlot in their Napa Valley selection. With a mineralic line throughout the wine melds black fruit with spiced nutmeg and allspice, pepper, and wildflowers. Fruit-forward, complex, and balanced, the wine shows structure without being overbearing, with a velvety, smooth finish.
When you think of the wines of the Russian River Valley, you likely think of Pinot Noir, as the cool-climate region influenced by the river produces some of the finest in California. Rarely does your mind go to Bordeaux varieties. However, Merlot has been a part what is now Longboard Vineyards in it’s estate DaKine Vineyard since the 1980s. The vineyard was formerly a part of Richard Arrowood’s Winery, where the one-block of Merlot was initially planted with budwood from Duckhorn’s Three Palms Vineyard in Napa. The wine is juicy, rich, and balanced showing layers of blackberry, currant, and plums with hints of ripe Morello cherry from the influence of the wine’s inclusion of Malbec with the Merlot. The resulting product is approachable, food-friendly, and delicious.
With a mix of soil types, Walla Walla, Washington reveals and Old World style to its Bordeaux varietal wines, as revealed in L’Ecole No 41 Walla Walla Estate Merlot. From sustainably farmed, hand harvested fruit from L’Ecole’s basalt filled Ferguson Vineyard and prestigious Seven Hills Vineyard, L’Ecole Merlot is earthy, structured, and refined while revealing balance and approachability. Blueberry, blackberry, black fig and plum flavors dance on the palate intertwined with toasted oak, dark chocolate, and baking spice.