By Chuck Hill
Wines of the Week Archive
Merlot is a lovely wine. It offers bright fruit of cherry and plum and sometimes marries elegantly with oak aging. On its own, it can also be simple and fruity – just a friendly quaff to wash down a meal or snack of sausage or cheese or spaetzle.
Add some Cabernet Sauvignon (or one of the Bordeaux buddies we discussed last week) to Merlot and you often get something greater than the sum of the parts. Cabernet Sauvignon spice, Cab Franc pepper and olive, or Malbec herbs and mineral... all can contribute to a Merlot-based cuvee to give it a boost up the tasting score ladder. We start today with some blends that you might want to seek out.
This is not quite a Merlot-heavy blend with proportions of 45% Cabernet
Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec, but it is such
a darn tasty wine that I couldn’t resist giving you a jump start on
getting some for the holidays. Ripe plum, blackberry and cassis mingle
with spicy oak notes, dried fruits and sandalwood – a perfect choice for
sausages or more elegant fare!
Here is a juicy blend of 49% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 21% Syrah that presents black cherry, currant, baking spice and toasty oak to pair with all types of cuisine. My tasters enjoyed it with Italian sausage and spaetzle dumpling noodles.
Named after the “Route de Chateaux” highway through the Medoc in Bordeaux, this Merlot-heavy blend has been a favorite with DeLille Cellars fans for many years. This latest edition features 58% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, a splash of Cab Franc and a dribble of Petit Verdot. Look for a cornucopia of berries and cherries with hints of dark chocolate, cedar, olive and vanilla.
Browne Family Vineyard
Proprietor Andrew Browne’s tribute to his sons is a blend of 39% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, 10% Petit Verdot, 6% Petite Sirah and 6% Carmenere. The rich and hearty wine offers dark fruits, leather and spice, all wrapped in toasty oak with hints of crème Brule and cocoa.
Mary Tuuri Derby exhibits her creativity in both art and winemaking as she conjures up new blends and brands. This blend is mostly Merlot with small parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, offering aromas and flavors of sweet cherry and berry with notes of toasty oak, coffee and cassis.
Canoe Ridge Vineyard
Canoe Ridge Vineyard has really hit a note of local pride with their Expedition label evocative of the Lewis and Clark expedition that put the Pacific Northwest (literally) on the map. Pack up your canoe, picnic and corkscrew to emulate the famous explorers (alas they had no wine), and enjoy this value-priced blend featuring blackberry, vanilla and toasty oak.
Walla Walla Vintners
Gordy Venneri, Scott Haladay and their winemakers William von Metzger and Judah Pira continue to create award-winning and palate-pleasing wines at this small – but important – Walla Walla winery. Consistency in style and quality have kept customers coming back for more than 20 years. Their zippy Merlot offers aromas and flavors of cran-cherry and huckleberry wrapped in toasty oak and cedar with flavors of caramel, mocha and leather on the finish.
Sourced from three of Walla Walla’s most famous vineyards - Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge and Octave, this Merlot delivers great fruit and great character to enjoy with your finest meals. The region’s trademark plum and blueberry are on show with a supporting cast of barrel spice, dusty sage, dark chocolate and velvety tannins on the finish.
Mike Januik is approaching his 20-year anniversary of starting his own winery with the added responsibility (and opportunity!) of making the wines for Novelty Hill winery, both at the modern Novelty Hill – Januik facility in Woodinville, Washington. This Merlot wine contains 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc offering aromas of red fruits and plush flavors of black cherry, currant and cocoa.
Columbia Winery traces its roots to the earliest days of the modern NW wine industry. The founders and famed winemaker David Lake, MW, have passed, but current winemaker Sean Hails carries the standard forward. Enjoy this wallet-friendly and palate-friendly Merlot for its ripe, round flavors of plum, candy cherry and hints of toasty oak and caramel.
Wines from other areas
Freemark Abbey winery dates back to the pre-prohibition days of the late 19th century when the historic stone winery was constructed by Antonio Forni and named Lombarda Cellars after his birthplace in Italy. Today, the winery follows traditions going back to 1967 when modern-era Napa winemaking favored Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. This rich and hearty Merlot was voted top marks by my tasters for its spicy dark fruits, smoky oak and lingering palate of plum, vanilla and caramel.
Robert Mondavi Winery
Longtime Mondavi winemaker Genevieve Janssens crafted this Merlot from grapes grown predominantly in the Stag’s Leap District of the Napa Valley with small amounts coming from more northern sites in the Valley. Look for a plush and juicy Merlot showing dark cherry and plum with spicy black pepper, cedar and tobacco.
The Spellbound name of this wine celebrates the motto: “nurtured by the sun, balanced by the moon.” The wine comes from winegrowing regions throughout California and offers good value for a fruity wine with aromas and flavors of berry pie, cocoa, cigar box and leather.
The name of this value brand might strike a chord with veteran wine lovers who may have followed Souverain in the 1970s and 1980s when it was competing in the premium Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay arenas. Clean and bright cherry fruit on the nose and palate distinguishes this wine as a Merlot to accompany simple meals and the hearty camaraderie of wine appreciation!
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To find contact information for most of the wineries
in the above text,