Honestly, this is a hard article for me to write. With Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties engulfed in over two dozen fires that I witnessed firsthand on Monday I have struggled this week to write about wine. I mean really, who wants to discuss the fact that October is #MerlotMe month right now. Frankly, I believe we should all be searching for ways to assist our beloved California wine country in this terrible hour of need. But then it occurred to me, perhaps drinking Napa and Sonoma wine is one small way we can stand with all of those affected by these terrible fires.
Because I am feeling a bet apathetic I am not going to recount the downslide of Merlot, the Sideway’s effect, and the over-produced diminishing quality that really led to Merlot’s demise. I think by now we all know this tale. Truth is, it is a story that is now getting a bit old. Merlot has been moving back into the wine consumer’s good graces for a while. The poor quality, over production is coming to an end, and quite frankly there are a lot of high quality Merlots on the market. It may not be a grape beloved by all, but few grapes fit that category. Besides, there would be no Bordeaux without Merlot. Furthermore, some of the best (read quality and highest prices) contain Merlot. So why, I ask, would anyone demonize an entire grape?
Personally, I like to drink high quality wine. If that wine is Merlot, then bring it on! It appears others feel the same way because this month’s #WinePW group is embracing Merlot and celebrating #MerlotMe month. Hear that? You have all month to buy and drink Merlot. And although the world is filled with high quality Merlot, I’d like to suggest we all embrace Merlot from Napa Valley and Sonoma County. In fact, I have three Merlots from those areas to get us started.
2015 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot Napa Valley USA ($54): This wine is crafted of grapes sourced from Duckhorn’s estate vineyards as well as top growers in Napa Valley; 88% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc; deep ruby with purple hues; pronounced aromas of slightly baked blackberries, black cherries, black plums; baking spice, mint, dried violets, chocolate, tobacco, vanilla; lush on the palate, rich, driven, focused, enters with juicy fruit, finishes with dried herbs and earth notes; balanced, youthful tannins that are well-integrated, pronounced acidity; well-structured and highly enjoyable; aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 60% neutral, 40% new; click here to purchase this wine.
2015 Chelsea Goldschmidt Merlot Alexander Valley USA ($18.99): This wine is crafted of grapes sourced from vineyards along Route 128 just east of Geyserville in Sonoma; 100% Merlot; deep ruby robe, medium aromas of black plums, cherries, dried currants, cassis, baking spice, potpourri with dried herbs and roses, dried tobacco, ground espresso, dark cocoa, trailing vanilla; it enters the palate softer than the nose would suggest, but then oh baby, the fruit notes are met with bold spice, black pepper, dried leather and tobacco; full body, balanced, a crushed velvet entry is swept up in grippy tannins and medium+ acidity with a long rich finish; the winemaker says this is a Merlot crafted with Cabernet lovers in mind, I concur, this is a rich, bold wine that delivers on every level if that is what you are looking for, it is named after Nick Goldschmidt’s eldest daughter Chelsea; aged 12 months in barrels comprised of 60% French oak, 20% American oak, and 20% Hungarian oak, with 25% overall being new; click here to purchase this wine.
2014 Cannonball Merlot Sonoma County USA ($15.99): This wine is crafted of grapes from their estate vineyard, Adam and Eve, in Northern Russian River Valley, as well as some additionally Sonoma Valley vineyards; 91% Merlot with small amounts of Petite Sirah and Syrah added for complexity; deep ruby; light aromas of red cherries, currants, candied raspberries, baking spice, and an un-named sweetness, cotton candy maybe?; the palate indicates a higher residual sugar mixed with candied and fresh picked berries; it lacks weight and structure but fits well with popular consumer wines; chill it for maximum enjoyment; no information about oak but none detected; also no purchasing information but I believe this wine is widely distributed.
Merlot tends to be a friendly wine, it is approachable, a good red to start a wine journey for newcomers, and it pairs well with many foods. Some suggestions include homemade cobb salad pizza, tri-tip steak with chimichurri, and sweet and sour pork chops.
*These wines were shared with me as media samples; all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Please check out my fellow #WinePW Merlot findings:
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Celebrating the Harvest with Eggplant Lasagna and J Lohr #MerlotMe”
David from Cooking Chat shares “Pork Tenderloin with Blackberry Merlot Sauce”
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “A Paddling of Duck(horn)s”
Gwen from Wine Predator shares “3 Merlot from Sonoma with Colorful Fall Pasta #WinePW”
Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere shares “Individual Beef Wellington Paired With Merlot Wine”
Jeff from FoodWineClick! shares “Grill Braised Brisket with Duckhorn Merlot”
Nicole from Somms Table shares “Many Merlots Make Marvelous Mediterranean Meal”
Jane from Always Ravenous shares “Roasted Pork Loin with Brandy Prune Sauce Paired with Merlot”
Nancy from Pull That Cork shares “A Fall Pairing for Merlot”
Jill from L’Occasion shares “Merlot, the Busy One”
Cindy from Grape Experiences shares “#MerlotMe and Savory Chicken and Mushrooms”
My Song Selection: I think every time is the right time for Ryan Adams, but today especially his softer side fits my mood as I think about the destruction that is happening in Napa and Sonoma.
Get your own bottles of Napa Valley and Sonoma County Merlots to celebrate #MerlotMe month and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!