A Merlot Tasting

California Merlot sure changed the quality perception & trajectory of this grape variety.  Then to pile on, the movie “Sideways” made Pinot Noir cool….at the expense of Merlot. Needless to say Merlot sales dropped significantly….at least in our restaurant.  Well, on the world stage, top echelon Merlot from Bordeaux, such as Chateau Petrus, has certainly NOT been tarnished.  It is still one of the most expensive, highly sought after red wines in the world!!!!  Why?  Of course, supply & demand play an important role….BUT undeniably……so does the soil.  With top echelon French wines, it really is about the soil, first & foremost.  So…..on this night, we decided to try 4 Merlot based wines…..side by side. To make things even more fun,we will serve them BLIND!

Hopefully, this tasting will be insightful.  Just another learning opportunity.

2009 Northstar Merlot  “Columbia Valley”  116

One of Washington State’s most highly acclaimed Merlots.  The 2009 was rated 92 points by the Wine Advocate & the Wine Enthusiast publications in a generally less regarded vintage.  Some would say, this wine shows the potential Merlot has in Washington.  81% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon & 4% Petite Verdot.

1172010 Chateau Tour Bayard “Montagne St Emilion

grown in the clay-limestone soils of Montagne St Emilion on Bordeaux’s Right Bank.  75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc & 5% Malbec, 12 months in 60% cement, 20% each—new & 1 year old barrels.  Chateau Tour Bayard is quite a “find” in today’s wine world & its escalating prices.  As a friend recently noted, “this estate over delivers every year in quality for the dollar, with the elegance & sublime quality of St Emilion with firm chewy tannins & delicious plump fruit”.   118


2009 Chateau Belles Graves “Lalande de Pomerol

88% Merlot & 12% Cabernet Franc—across a small “river” from Pomerol…in clay/gravel soils with flint, quartz & mica.  15 months in oak, 25% new.  “Lush, velvety textures” …another terrific value.  

1192005 Chateau Monsbousquet “St Emilion Grand Cru Classe

Here is a chateau certainly on the rise.  Records show evidence of this estate in the 1500’s.  The 32 hectare estate is a mere 500 meters from St Emilion’s hill on the southern slopes & over the years, their wines were noted for their perfume, finesse & alluring bouquet. Michel Rolland started consulting in 1993….& especially recently, this domaine has meteorically jumped to superstar status, pointed by the elevation to “Grand Cru Classe” status in 2006.    60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Quite internationalized in style, which at least partially explains its high scores.

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