Posts Tagged ‘Merlot’

Spring finally seemed to have sprung today, but after enduring the wettest winter ever, I’m not counting my chickens. So while I did put a bottle of red in the fridge (gasp!) late this afternoon, around the time that our house began to sweat, I’m still not quite ready to start drinking white.

The solution? What this between-seasons moment calls for is really a lovely “medium red”—a Pinot, maybe a red blend or Merlot—anything that satisfies without feeling too much like a warm blanket. Here’s a roundup of some we’ve recently enjoyed, listed from north to south, inland to coastal, U.S. to Italy. Salute!

2007 Waterstone Napa Valley Merlot, $18. The pungent berry bouquet and tannic mouthfeel of this Merlot screamed Napa to me—in a good way. We also liked its not-very-Napa price tag.

2009 La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, $24. Lots going on in this offering from the land of lusted-after Pinots: an aroma of dense dark fruit, sweet smoke and spice, and a bit of cedar. It tasted of black cherry, with gamey notes and a little Chinese spice.

2009 La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir, $24. We wondered briefly if La Crema’s winemaker felt that these two 2009 Pinots were rushed to market a bit early. . . . Great potential was the dominant takeaway with this one, but we liked its dark fruit aroma, rough-silk mouthfeel, and pleasant finish. Not particularly Pinot-y.

2007 Intelligent Design Central Coast Cuvee, $38. I got lots of earth and oak on the nose of this Rhône-grape blend from Wesley Ashley Wines—and must admit that I missed some of what captivated Thomas of The Blog Wine Cellar last summer. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed his review and agree that it’s a wine worth trying. Velvety on the palate, with a long strong finish

2007 Lucente Tuscan Red Blend, $30. This simple blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cab earned its Super Tuscan stripes with a jammy aroma, smooth mouthfeel, and very nice, long finish. Our favorite wine merchant calls it “nicely made”—and he doesn’t dish out the compliments easily.

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Recently earning raves in my household was a 2007 Merlot from Napa Valley’s Shafer Vineyards. I found the aroma on this wine oh-so-very Napa, evoking cedar and pencil shavings, while my husband noted blackberries and plums. He commented that the Shafer was bright and ripe with great acid and good balance, and I agreed — although we parted ways on its finish, which I found smooth and delightful. Peter complained that it was just a little too hot (high alcohol) — although at 14.9 percent, the alcohol content is actually pretty modest for a Napa red.

At $48 a bottle, the price of Shafer’s Merlot is fairly modest as well, coming from a winery whose Cabernet Sauvignons range in price from $70 to $215. Interesting bit of trivia on that topic: Shafer’s vineyards are overseen by David Ilsley, whose family business, Ilsley Vineyards, happens to be right next door. The Ilsleys’ land abuts Shafer’s reknowned Hillside Vineyard (the two properties aren’t even separated by a fence), whose grapes produce the highly acclaimed $215 Cab known as Hillside Select.

Now, the scuttlebutt in the Stags Leap District that is home to both these wineries — at least among devotees to the concept of terroir — is that Shafer Hillside Select and Ilsley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) are nearly identical wines with a $160 price difference. While this theory doesn’t do justice to the obvious talents and varied techniques of Shafer winemaker Elias Fernandez or Ilsley winemaker Craig MacLean, you can’t argue against the Ilsley Cab as a great value.

Just like that Shafer Merlot.

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