Merlot is a noble grape variety that is often associated with some of the best wines from Bordeaux. Yet Merlot is often misunderstood and is a variety that needs to be explored. It is a quiet variety, understated and elegant. Merlot is coming out of the closet and coming out front and center, with a month-long celebration of Merlot throughout October. It even has its own International Merlot Day, dedicate specially to this noble grape variety which is celebrated on November 7th, 2019.
With a beautiful name like Merlot(means Little Black Bird in French) you know the variety is just as precious. Merlot has flavors of juicy berries, exotic spice, and cocoa powder. It’s a wine that is smooth, elegant and soft. A wonderful wine for autumn sipping, but because of its medium body, it can be drunk year-round and can be paired with almost any type of food. I love it with pasta, salads, turkey or even a big juicy steak. Merlot is approachable, fleshy, juicy and simply put DELICIOUS.
We all know that the “Sideways Effect” had a detrimental impact on the sale of Merlot wines. Now fourteen years after the movie, Merlot lovers are in luck. After the plummeting sales of Merlot, many winemakers switched to making more profitable Cabernet Sauvignon. Which meant that the truly passionate Merlot producers stuck around. It separated the good producers from the not so good, resulting in smaller but higher quality Merlots on the market. Only those producers making outstanding wines with passion and zest were left.
The following eight Merlots from around the globe are made by exceptional winemakers who have a deep passion for this noble grape variety.
1. Montiano Merlot Lazio Cotarella 2015 ($60)
The Montiano is a 100% single-vineyard Merlot grown in the Montiano parcel in Montefiascone, Lazio. The volcanic, mineral-rich soil of the Montiano vineyard and a rigorous hand selection of these grapes, contribute to Montiano’s solid structure and concentration. This is one of the most sought after wines from central Italy, which is a perennial favorite of red wine collectors worldwide.
2. Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Merlot 2016 ($90)
The Pahlmeyer Merlot is one of Napa Valley’s best expressions of this noble grape variety. The 2016 Pahlmeyer Merlot opens with complex aromas of blueberry and boysenberry lifted with fresh hints of cardamom, anise and Herbs de Provence. The deep fruit flavors carry over the palate, with subtle notes of forest floor, crushed tomatoes, and oregano. Soft, supple, elegant tannins provide the kind of structure that will help this wine age beautifully.
3. McIntyre Merlot Kimberly Vineyards Arroyo Seco 2015 ($25)
This Merlot is made by Steve McIntyre, one of the most knowledgeable viticulturists in California. The 2015 Kimberly Vineyard is the epitome of Goldilocks-climate Merlot. It marries the lavish, ripe fruit of a warm site with the elegance and structure of a cool locale. As in previous years, the dominant character traits include blackberry, anise, cassis, and dried currants. Below that is a bed of juicy black fruit and supple, silky tannins. While it drinks well now, this Merlot will continue to evolve and improve over the next decade.
4. Seavey Napa Valley Merlot 2016 ($65)
Seavey’s 2016 Merlot leads with a nose. There are wonderful aromas of pomegranates, plums, cherries, and roasted coffee beans. On the palate, the wine is rich, powerful and herbaceous with hints of luxurious black fruits, chocolate, and leather. This Merlot offers an intriguing mix of rugged, masculine fruit from their steep hillside vineyards and more fragrant feminine fruit from their loamy soils resulting in a balanced wonderfully aromatic wine with a creamy and lush mouthfeel.
5. Seven Hills Walla Walla Merlot 2016 ($25)
Seven Hills Winery was established by the McClellan Family in 1988 as the fifth winery in Walla Walla Valley. A special union of land and climate, coupled with three decades of winemaking tradition, allows the McClellan Family to create a classic Merlot that captures the unique characters of the appellation. This Merlot exemplifies the depth, expressive beauty and grace of the Walla Walla Valley.
6. Peju Napa Valley Merlot 2016 ($48)
Peju, named the best winery in North America, brings this intense Merlot. Deep ruby in color, the 2016 Merlot offers fragrant, layered aromas of juicy pomegranate, baking spice, and a hint of cedar. Lush fruits of cherry and blackberry envelop the palate. Soft hints of toasted almond and vanilla culminate with an elegant finish. Delicious now, this Merlot will continue to mature for the next 6-8 years.
7. Chateau Monbousquet Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2015 ($60)
A gem from Saint-Emilion, Monbousquet is a classic right bank Merlot dominant blend. Château Monbousquet can trace its roots back to 1540. It has a prestigious history — in 1865 it was considered to be one of the most important estates in Saint-Émilion. In 1993 the estate was purchased by Gérard Perse, leading to the armodexperiment promotion of Monbousquet to Saint Émilion Grand Cru Classé in 2006.
The vineyards of Château Monbousquet are planted on soils of deep gravel and sandy-clay to 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is clean and fruit-focused with great intensity and silky, mouth-coating tannins.
8. L’Ecole N° 41 Walla Walla Valley Estate Merlot 2016 (SRP $37)
2016 was a spectacular vintage for Washington State. The wine is a beautiful, rich, full-bodied Merlot made from two sites; the Seven Hills Vineyard and Ferguson Vineyards(highest point in Walla Walla). Ferguson’s high elevation provides natural acidity to this wine while the Seven Hills Vineyard adds minerality and complexity. A beautiful and classic expression of Merlot from Walla Walla.
Gina Zarcadoolas says
Fantastic writeup Rupal! You make me want to drink more Merlot! Cheers lovely!! XO