2006 Merlot Duel – Ca. vs. Wa.

I love wine duels as I believe they can help shake-up the many stereotypes we have as wine lovers. I’ve been witness to quite a few that have shaken preconcived ideas and also helped to enlighten peoples minds and palates to the wine-world around them. And honesly, that’s a great thing, right?

California has really taken on a following all its own for the good job it does with so many of the red bordeaux grapes – Cab and Merlot top that list. The simple truth is that California has been producing award-winning Merlot longer than any other state in the union and for that they should be commended and saught out.

However, as many of us know, the state of Washington has really come a long ways in a short amount of time and really shaken things up a lot – not only here in the “new world” but in the old as well. Its eastern climate is ideal for growing grapes that ripen well and produce amazing fruit – talk to any vineyard owner there and they’ll talk about that area for hours.

2006 Pedestal Merlot by Long Shadows Winery – W.E.P. Rating: 95%

Long Shadows vintners, founded by long-time Washington wine pioneer, Allen Shoup, is one of those Walla Walla-based wineres to watch and has garnered praise on most of its wines from critics around the world. In fact, it’s 2005 Pedestal Merlot recently won international acclaim at a wine tasting in Canada. There’s little doubting that this winery and the people behind it are about as passionate as anyone can get when it comes to the potential for Washington wine.

Nose: Blackberry jam for days on end, combined with stellar notes of leather, peppercorn, shoe-polish, stinky stocks, tobacco and dark chocolate.
Taste: Incredible layers of flavors going on here – blaCKberry pie (fresh out of the oven) combined with spices and black pepper. I also get in the mid-palate transition a good amount of leather, tobacco and chocolate for days. Superb mid-palate action where the dark chocolate notes really start to take center stage. Good mouthfeel that makes you beg for more and a finish that has some of the best hang-time I’ve had from any wine at any price.
  • AVA: Columbia Valley
  • Alcohol: 14.7%
  • pH: 3.83
  • TA: 0.51 grams / 100ml
  • Blend: 86% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec
  • Release date: February 2009
  • Production: 1,877 cases
  • Winemaking Overseer: Michel Rolland
  • Price: $55

Nose: Blackberry jam for days on end, combined with stellar notes of leather, peppercorn, shoe-polish, stinky stocks, tobacco and dark chocolate.

Taste: Incredible layers of flavors going on here – blackberry pie (fresh out of the oven) combined with spices and black pepper. I also get in the mid-palate transition a good amount of leather, tobacco and chocolate for days. Superb mid-palate action where the dark chocolate notes really start to take center stage. Good mouthfeel that makes you beg for more and a finish that has some of the best hang-time I’ve had from any wine at any price.

2006 Double Eagle Merlot by GOS Winery: W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Double Eagle started off as a pet-project from some friends who simply wanted to make some good wine for themselves to share. From the leather label to the waxed top, it’s clear that the presentation of this wine was made to impress. Fast-foward a few years, and it caught-on so much that Michael and crew made it available to the public. While you probably won’t find it in wide-spread availabillity you can always order it directly from the winery.

  • Varietal: 92% “Grieve Vineyard” Merlot,  8% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • AVA: Napa Valley
  • Vineyard: Grieve Family Vineyard (Lovall Valley)
  • Elevation: 650 feet
  • Density: 1,040 vines per acre
  • Vine Age: 9 years
  • Harvest Date: 11/2/06
  • Brix at Harvest: 25.7
  • Winemaker: Michael Sebastiani
  • Cold Soak: 1 ½ days
  • Fermentation: 14 days with additional maceration of 5 days
  • Oak: 100 French, 20% new, 40% one-year and 40% two-year
  • Alcohol: 15.4%
  • pH: 3.86
  • Bottled: 8/27/08
  • Cases Bottled: 200
  • Price: $40

Nose: Intense dark chocoloate, cinnamon, black plums, black licorice, vanilla, pomagranate and charcoal.

Taste: Cascading black fruit that gives way to a piece of freshly tanned leather soaked in currant, cinnamon and chocolate undertones which are firmly grasped by a nice tannin structure with excellent acidity and mouth feel. The finish lingers very well and keeps rewarding your tastebuds long after its slid gently down the hatch.