Enough Already! Just Drink Merlot

How many articles have been written about the “Sideways Effect” of Merlot? It’s true Miles is a wine snob with a passionate dislike for Merlot, at least till the end of the movie when he reveals his favorite wine is Chateau Cheval Blanc – a Merlot, Cabernet Franc blend. However, further investigation reveals two points, the quality decline of Merlot began before Sideways, and Merlot is back.

The slow decline of quality Merlot can be traced back to 1991 – 60 Minutes’s Morley Safer exposed Americans to what has been dubbed the “French Paradox.” Safer revealed at the time the French were outliving Americans and suffering few heart-attacks, while consuming more fatty foods, smoking and drinking more, and exercising less. There is a lot to unpack here, but suffice it to say it lead to an immediate increase in American red wine consumption – typically Merlot.

Time and again in the wine world we have witnessed the popularity of wine increase and its quality decrease. Case in point, Australian Shiraz and Argentinian Malbec. Merlot is no exception. It seems for a while everyone was drinking Merlot. My entry to the wine world came around this time, my favorite wine – Kendall Jackson Merlot.

To stand on your own in the wine world a grape has to hit the marks of flavor, complexity, length, and age-ability. During the 90’s Merlot wasn’t cutting it, then, in 2004, Sideways was released and Merlot took a nosedive. But, this is not a Grimm fairy-tale, this is Rocky! Despite all the obstacles Merlot is back, a champion to be enjoyed. Last year, Duckhorn Vineyards 2014 Napa Valley Three Palms Merlot was chosen as Wine Spectator’s Top Wine of 2017. It is time, once again, to thoughtfully enjoy Merlot.

October is #MerlotMe month. For the past several years our #WinePW group has celebrated by sharing many high-quality Merlots for your drinking pleasure. Please take a moment to learn more about #MerlotMe from these great articles:

  • Jill at l’Occasion shares “#MerlotMe In The Kitchen
  • Cindy at Grape-Experiences writes “#MerlotMe with Family, Friends, and Food
  • Lori at Dracaena shares “ #MerlotMe and the Little Chef 
  • Gwen at Wine Predator shares “Washington #MerlotMe Paired with Ahi Tuna and Salmon for #WinePW
  • Rupal at Syrah Queen shares “Celebrating #Merlotme with Duckhorn & L’Ecole 41
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “So Many Merlots, So Many Pairings for #WinePW
  • Martin at Enofylz shares “Penne Boscaiola Paired with 2015 Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot
  • David at Cooking Chat shares “BBQ Beef Stew with Three Palms Merlot
  • Sarah at Curious Cuisiniere shares “Peking Duck and a Merlot Wine Pairing
  • Jane at Always Ravenous shares “Food Pairings for Merlot Lovers”
  • Julian at BC Wine Trends shares “BC Merlot with Ribs for Thanksgiving”
  • Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “A month of #MerlotMe Wine and Food Pairings
  • Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Merlot for Every Day of the Week”

Here are four Merlots to enjoy during the remainder of #MerlotMe month: 

Disclaimer: media samples; all thoughts & opinions my own.

Novelty Hill and Januik Winery joined forces in 2000, with Mike Januik as winemaker for both labels.

2014 Januik Merlot Columbia Valley Washington ($25): Crafted of grapes sourced from some of the top vineyards in the state; 89% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc; notes of black cherry, black berry, plum, and currant, dried roses, baking spice, and cocoa. Medium-bodied palate, offers structure, length, and focus; smooth, with integrated tannins and balanced acidity. No longer available at winery but distributed nationally. Visit Wine-Searcher or Google to locate.

2015 Novelty Hill Merlot Columbia Valley Washington ($21): 93% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc; inviting aromas of chocolate covered cherry mingles with baking spice. Medium-bodied on the palate, this wine is elegant and round with depth and focus. Supple mouth-feel blends well with medium acidity for a long, dry finish. Well-distributed. Visit Wine-Searcher or Google to locate.

2015 Markham Merlot Napa Valley ($25): 86% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petite Sirah; Comprised of several different Napa Valley vineyard sites in Oak Knoll, Calistoga, and Yountville; Aromas include black cherry, plum, black raspberry, cassis, black licorice, mocha, and dusty earth. Medium+ bodied robust wine with chewy tannins, nice mid-palate weight, and long length. Available at  Markham or a wine retailer near you.

2015 Flora Springs Merlot Napa Valley ($30): 100% Merlot sourced from sustainably farmed estate vineyards in St. Helena, Rutherford, and Oakville. Dazzling red fruit notes of cherry, pomegranate, raspberry mingle with dried roses and savory herbs, baking spice, mocha, and trailing vanilla. Medium-bodied on the palate, warm and approachable, silky mouth-feel with balanced acidity and a long finish. Available at Flora Springs or a wine retailer near you.

A super food-friendly wine, Merlot offers endless food pairing possibilities. Here are some of my fall favorites. What are some of your favorite Merlot pairings?

Please join our Twitter chat tomorrow at 10am CST by using #WinePW. As you enjoy #MerlotMe October, tag me in your photos so I can share your joy. Cheers!

25 responses to “Enough Already! Just Drink Merlot”

  1. Dare I say it’s the Merlot Me Movement?


    Well done honey. I love you

    Dennis Sternitzky Direct: 202-695-2449


  2. I am really impressed with the Washington State merlot — I actually took a few to my neighbor after tasting them because I just had to share!

    Your meals look fantastic — I so very much need new ideas. We could eat and drink #MerlotMe style all month!

  3. Markham Cellars is one of my go-to grocery store Napa Merlots. Rutherford Hill being the other, although neither the 2013 nor the 2014 match the amazing 2012.

  4. Merlot has definitely gotten a bad rap and I’m so glad it’s having a resurgence! Like you, Merlot was my first foray into an “adult” wine world (I don’t count Boones as “adult”) 🙂 It was L’Ecole Merlot from Walla Walla, WA – and it’s still a freakin’ delicious wine! Looking forward to reading all these MerlotMe posts!

  5. I started drinking wine in the early 90’s. My favorite Kendall Jackson Chardonnay to which I was introduced while on a trip to San Diego. It took me a few years to develop my love of red wines. Thanks for the informative post.

  6. I worked at Clos du Bois in the late ’80’s early ’90’s and Merlot was hot! (KJ was the big competitor). I too fell in love with Merlot back then. Fast forward to today, I agree so many more incredible Merlots to choose from now. Just back from Washington state and tasting some amazing Merlots there….Merlot is back, better than ever!

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