by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez / Monday, June 29, 2009
June Wine- Merlot
About the grape: Merlot is a red wine grape (but it's black) that is used as a varietal, but also for blending. Since it is soft and fleshy and it ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, it is one of the major players in Bordeaux produced wine. About the varietal/wine: Merlot became a very popular varietal back in the '90's (which ultimately led me to choosing it). It is sometimes called the fruitcake wine...I like to call it a "gateway" wine. Although it is one of the widest grown grapes, its major growing regions are: Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Chilean Central Valley and Australia. (and I know we grow over here in the Indiana/Michigan area, too!!) Tannins: medium Tasting notes range from red berries to plum, cedar, tobacco and fruitcake to chocolate and black cherry...which mostly depends on the growing climate. Pairing Merlot with food can be tricky because with such a range of tastes, you have a wide range of options! Cooler climate Merlot tend to go better with most food pairings because they are more acidic & versatile. It always helps to read the info on the bottle or check out a particular wine's website. I went ahead and included White Merlot in the Merlot category. It is made similar to White Zinfandel...the grapes are crushed and after a very brief period of contact with the skins, the wine is then run off and fermented.
So, my general Merlot observations were that yes, I found a lot of the fruitcake variety. I actually found most of them to be a little too sweet or too dull. The wines that had notes of chocolate & vanilla or with smokey undertones turned out to be my personal favorites...and the ones with a pronounced deep cherry or blueberry flavor were also some I enjoyed. Here is a little (and very amateur, I know, I know...I'm learning) review of the Merlots that I drank this month....
$5.49 on sale (reg. price $7.49)
Intro from Winemaker: ...is a luscious wine with alluring flavors of boysenberry and chocolate. Hints of anise and subtle tannins compliment the decadent, silky finish.
Review: Nose-chocolate. Taste- smooth, chocolaty,, slight hint of berries (though I can't actually decipher the "boysen"). Slightly spicy with perhaps that hint of anise. Slightly smokey.
Beringer WHITE Merlot
Intro: This carefully crafted wine has enticing flavors of ripe red berries. It is soft, smooth, friendly and delicious.
review: Dark rose in color. Nose- berries on a warm, summer day...slightly spicy. Smooth, light & sweet- but not too sweet. Warm & happy with a hint of tobacco. I actually didn't mind it...and I usually don't care for "pink" wines.
buy again: I think so, yes
$5.99 on sale (reg. $7.99)
intro: Flavors of mixed berry and mellow cherry, with a velvet finish...
review: color- garnet. nose- warm berries. taste- spice & berries...bright, warm, dry. I liked it.
buy again: yes
intro: ...is a soft, supple red that finishes with a burst of ripe raspberry fruit flavors. It's the perfect choice for those who prefer a back road to the highway.
review: smooth, warm, slightly spicy...very mellow. Semi-dry with pleasantly sweet berry undertones. Nose- berries. color- ripe red raspberry. One of my top 3!
buy again: yes!
~$4-5.00 (forgot to remember...)
intro: Luscious flavors of blueberry & black cherry with subtle notes of vanilla and toasted oak.
review: nose- yup, subtle hints of oak and vanilla. Color- burgundy. taste- deep berry, slightly oaky with hints of spice and vanilla. As it has time to bloom, the vanilla becomes more apparent and makes for very smooth drinking. Dry & medium-bodied. Another of my top 3.
buy again: yes
Columbia Crest Grand Estates
$7.68 on sale (reg. $10.99)
intro: G.E. wines are created with an artisan wine making approach. During harvest, a third of the fruit from the vineyards for this Merlot is not crushed. The whole berries are added to the wine during fermentation to create a unique aromatic and flavorful style with a soft texture.
review: tastes very strong and coppery the first day. The second day it is mellow and smooth. Nose of black cherries...still a bit of a coppery or metallic undertone, but somehow it is not unpleasant. Slightly must with a bright berry flavor sneaking up from underneath. This was the priciest of the Merlots that I tried...but I think it was worth it.
buy again: Yes...a day before I want to drink it.
Frontera- Concha y Toro
intro: none about the wine itself, just the winemaker
review: color- ripe plum taste- of ripe fruit and tobacco..very dry and kind of boring.
buy again: probably not
Oak Leaf Vineyards
no year listed
No intro given
review: Kind of non-descript...a bit spicy & flat...fruitcake (!) Sad because this is my favorite label...but don't worry, they make different varietals...cuz I know you were worried...
Stone Cellars by Beringer
no year listed
$1.25 mini-bottle (regular size bottle $7.99)
intro: Our Merlot is full with vibrant fresh blueberry flavors with hints of plum and blackberry fruit leading to a luscious, smooth finish.
review: color-blueish purple. Tastes of berries...fruity and slightly sweet. Very drinkable as a stand alone wine.
buy again: yes
Sutter Home Family Vineyards
$1.25 mini-bottle ($7.49 regular size bottle)
review: color- ruby. Tastes like cherries with slightly smokey undertones. Spicy on the tongue. Good!
buy again: yes
Sutter Home Family Vineyard WHITE Merlot
review: color-rose. smell- sweet & floral. Tastes sweet, very sweet, cloyingly sweet. Slightly spicy & oaky...overly fruity and yick, yuck, gross! Really super sweet. Really. This is probably the first bottle of wine that I did NOT even finish...
buy again: nope
no year given
$3.49 on sale (reg. $3.99)
Intro: With flavors of black cherry and mixed berries, our experienced winemakers have crafted this Merlot to a smooth, full-flavored wine with a medium body and impressive finish.
review: Tastes a bit smokey with chocolate and berry undertones....somewhat sweet aftertaste. If you roll it around on your tongue, it actually tastes very sweet. Not the best, not the worst.
buy again: maybe
intro: Our Merlot has notes of plum, black cherry and toasty oak.
review: color- deep purple. Tastes strong, like very ripe plums and oak. Slightly smokey aftertaste. Mellowed a bit after sitting a day, still plum-y...but I actually preferred the more pronounced taste of the first day. Decent.
buy again: probably Come on over to BakeSpace Wine Club and join us in next month's wine tasting!
Michiana-based food writer with a fondness for garlic, freshly baked bread, stinky cheese, dark beer, and Mexican food—who believes that immersing herself in different cultures one bite at a time is the best path to enlightenment.