Tag Archive | "merlot"

Review: 2009 VaPiano Brunos Blend

By Duane Pemberton
Winery website: http://www.vapianovineyards.com/

Doing blends of various varietals is nothing uncommon but what we don’t see as much of is blending varietals and AVAs – this fun little blend from Va Piano Vineyards is such a wine. It’s under $25, drinks well and should age for a few more years to come – let’s dive in.

Review: 2009 VaPiano Brunos Blend

Technical Data:

  • Varietal Composition: 82% Cab Sauv, 14% Merlot, 3% Cab Franc and 1% Syrah
  • Appellation: Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley
  • Oak: 30% New French Oak
  • Alcohol: 14.4%
  • TA: .54
  • pH: 3.83
  • Price: $23

Nose: Plum jam, blackberry, bramble, peppercorn and black raspberry. leather glove and rose petal.

Taste: Stellar combination of blackberry jam, pepper, macerated cherries and raspberry. Good acidity on the mid palate that leads into a finish that lingers on for hours with notes of licorice, ink and dark chocolate. This is easily a no-brainer red wine for the money and one should be highly saught out.

W.E.P. Rating: 100%

Posted in Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

3 2006 Long Shadows Wines – Review

I can’t think of a more passionate dude in the Washington wine industry than winemaker, Gilles Nicault. His zeal for wine, passion for life and people can only be truly appreciated if you get the chance to meet him in person. One could say that being french-born slanted him to be this way but his level of passion is hard to fake or duplicate. Gilles puts his whole heart into everything he touches and because of that, everyone should have the chance to try his wines – even if at the end of the day your palate doesn’t agree with them.

Long Shadows hires talent from around the world to work with Gilles on various projects – this is part of the success model for the winery as they get to to employ the expertise from some of the world’s most celebrated winemakers.

2006 Pirouette – W.E.P. Rating: 80%

Technical Details:

  • Blend: 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 5% Syrah
  • Alcohol: 14.6%
  • pH: 3.93
  • TA: 0.53 grams / 100ml
  • Release Date: May 2009
  • Production: 1,733 cases
  • Price: $55

Nose: Waves of dark chocolate covered blueberries and blackberries. white pepper, wild game, road tar and spice.

Taste: Nice doses of black and white pepper with fresh deer meat, a touch of baby poo, radishes, blackberry, plusm, anise, and chocolate. This is an interesting wine in that it offers some nice layers of complexity and had good acids, but for a $55 wine the finish seems a bit awkward for me. It finishes with some black licorice, pencil lead and ink but all that goodness gets a bit choked out by being a touch too hot – I’d like to try this wine again in 3-5 years.

2006 Feather – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Details:

  • 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Alcohol: 14.2%
  • pH: 3.72
  • TA: 0.57 grams / 100ml
  • Release Date: April 2009
  • Production: 2,238 cases
  • Price: $55

Nose: Cherries, dirt, raspberries, freshly-tanned leather, saddle soap and big-league chew.

Taste: Nice dose of what I’m going to call “dirty cherries” – it’s like you took a handful of cherries, dropped them in the dirt and then ate them – Good stuff. Across the mid-palate, I get some cool flavors of lavender, rose petal, charcoal, black raspberries and leather. Good finish that lingers nicely with flavors of black pepper and spice – would be a great pick for a grilled rib-eye steak.

2006 Saggi – W.E.P. Rating: 95%

  • Blend:42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Sangiovese, 19% Syrah
  • Alcohol: 14.6%
  • pH: 3.81
  • TA: 0.55 grams / 100ml
  • Release Date: October 2008
  • Production: 1,725 cases
  • $45

Nose: Crayola crayons, christmas fruit cake, cherry, blueberry,  glue,  star anise and some fresh road-kill.

Taste: Blackberry-laced leather straps that have been covered in molasses, cherries, pie crust, chocolate, nutmeg and wild game. There is a lot going on in the taste of this wine – it’s very complex, offering a great variety in layers of flavors. Good acidity and tannin structure – for me – make this wine an easy pick for lasagna or meat-filled ravioli or any sort of italian-styled meat and red-sauce dishes. Good velvet-action on the palate with a finish that hangs out like that annoying neighborhood kid who doesn’t “get it” on when it’s time to leave.

On the web: www.longshadows.com

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (3)

2006 Liberty Lake Cellars Merlot

Liberty Lake Cellars, near Spokane Washington, started off in 2004 by producing small amounts of wine which was sourced from Red Mountain AVA. It’s owners, Doug and Shelly both have “day jobs” while working the winery in their off-time. It’s a winery built on hard work and a lot of heart.

They were participants in the #WaMerlot Tweet-up a couple of months ago and I was really drawn in to their passion via a few emails I’ve had with them.

  • Price: $22
  • Alcohol: 13.4%

Nose: Blackberries, dark cocoa, forest floor, cherry-flavored Robitussin, vanilla and oak.

Taste: There is some black fruit going on here, however, it seems to be overwhelmed with oak. Across the mid-palate I get notes of chocolate, tobacco and black pepper but again, the oak comes in and just kills it for me. The finish leaves a sort of black pepper-laced fruit roll-up on the tongue – but again, for me, it’s way too much oak coming through. If you’re a fan of the “California-styled” wines that do have that more pronounced oak/vanilla flavor, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this merlot.

W.E.P. Rating: 70%

On the web: www.libertylakewinecellars.com

Posted in Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

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.

Posted in California Wines, Merlot, Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

2006 Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot

Duckhorn Winery, based in St. Helena California, produces bordeaux-style wines and has considered one of that regions top-quality producers for almost two decades. Its unyielding commitment to quality has long been cemented by its award-winning merlot which it now produces over 30,000 cases of. 

This merlot was one of my “gateway” wines back in my early days of getting into red wines – I remember it have a finish to die for – lush, velvety and just full of excellent fruit which still sticks in the back of my mind even to this day.

This “Napa Valley” Merlot features grapes harvested from 36 different vineyards and really underscores the blending talents of the winemaking staff at Duckhorn. Getting the right comination of blend percentages can be a tricky process, much less working from 36 varrying vineyards and microclimates.

Technical Data:

  • Varietal Content: 96% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot
  • Appellation: Napa Valley
  • Harvest Dates: September 9 — October 31, 2006
  • Average Sugar at Harvest: 25.6 degrees Brix
  • 36 Vineyards Harvested
  • Cooperage: 100% French Oak Château-style Barrels (60 Gallons)
  • Barrel Aging: 16 Months
  • Age of Barrels: 30% new, 70% second vintage
  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • 0.67 g/100 ml titratable acidity
  • 8-10 days fermentation at 80?F
  • pH: 3.33
  • Bottled: April 2008
  • Price: $52

Nose: Blackberries, currant, dark cherries, saddle soap with hints of rose petal and leather. 

Taste: Firm tannin structure with the classic black fruit that Merlot is known for – fruit hits heavy on the palate like pepper-laced blackberry jam and then brings in nice subtleties of cedar and spice. The finish isn’t nearly as long as it should be and at its pricepoint of $52 – I think there are plenty of better wines out there. The tannins should mellow out a lot over the next 3-6 years and I’d be interested in trying this wine again at that time.

I ended-up putting the cork back on the the bottle and tracked its progress over the course of a few days – it defintely started to relax a lot which showed-off the blackfruits even more and helped balance the finish a bit more; however, it’s still not remotely being worth the price being asked for it so on that alone, I’d have to give this wine a huge pass.

W.E.P. Rating: 50%

Winery website: www.duckhornvineyards.com

Posted in California Wines, Merlot, ReviewsComments (0)

2005 Andrake Cellars Merlot – Review

One of the great things about the wine business at large is that there are many small wineries out there who are very passionate about the products they produce and for those who know about them, can bring a rewarding experience.  My friend, Bob Andrake, of Andrake Cellars in Olympia WA is one of those who truly love wine and everything about it. 

Over the past few years, I’ve got to know him and his wife – wonderful folks who love life, family and food – my kind of peeps. One thing I know about Bob is that he has no qualms about dissing his own wines when he feels they don’t quite cut the mustard – there has been more than one occasion where he and I have sat around, drinking one of his wines – and he’ll say something along the lines of “jeesh, that sure didn’t turn out like I had hoped” (i’m paraphrasing). His honesty of this own wines and passion for making the best he knows how helps to keep his head in the game and lets him stay intellectually honest about his own products.

Technical Data:

  • Vineyards: Meek Vineyards
  • Alcohol: 14.4%
  • Ph: 3.82
  • Oak: 100% French Oak – 35% new
  • Cases Produced: 72
  • 96% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 2% Cab Franc
  • Cost: $30

Nose: Floods of dark chocolate and cherries with hints of eucalyptus, white pepper, tobacco and tobacco.

Taste: Mountains of insanely dark fruit – this is one of the darkest, blackest merlots I’ve had in a LONG time. Massive attack of blackberries and white pepper on the front-end – it’s like sticking your tongue straight into a jar of home-made blackberry jam and then sniffing pepper. A good, long finish that comes across a bit on the hot side as it slides down the ol’ hatch. This wine is cleary not for everyone – old world wine fans will need to check out some other wine. 

W.E.P. Rating: 85%

Andrake Cellars: #: 360-943-3746

Posted in Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

2006 Ehlers Cab and Merlot

Ehlers Estate Winery, in St. Helena California, has been producing since the year 2000 and is the only non-profit winery I’m aware of – anywhere. 100% of its proceeds go into cardiovascular research. The reason for this is because its founder, Jean Leduqa, was a longtime sufferer of heart disease – hence why his wife, Sylviane, started a foundation in her husband’s name to aid in that type of R&D. So not only are you helping your own heart with a hearty glass of red wine, you can also know your business with Ehlers goes to help those around the world as well.

In this tasting, I’m looking at the 2006 releases of its Cab and Merlot – both of which are priced at $45. I know that’s on the higher-end of pricing for most folks in today’s economy, but is actually pretty “normal” for Napa-pricing – so I hope these prove to rock me for those prices.

2006 Merlot St. Helena: W.E.P. Rating: 90%

  • Vintage: 2006
  • Varietal: Merlot
  • Final Blend: 79% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot Fruit
  • Source: 100% estate grown Farming: California Certified Organic Farmer 
  • Harvest Date: Sept. 26 – Oct. 12, 2006
  • Acid: 5.7g/L TA
  • PH: 3.74 pH
  • Aging: 18 months in oak, 85% French oak, 40% new
  • Bottling Date: June 16 – 17, 2008
  • Brix at harvest: 25
  • Price: $45

Nose: dark chocolate, tobacco, green onion, blackberry, black cherry, mildewy V8 juice mixed with cocoa-cola blows off after awhile to a nice cedar-laden forest floor, vanilla and toasted marshmellows.

Taste: Think of this wine as a vanilla-laced piece of dark chocolate that’s smothered in blackberry and blueberry jam then topped with some cedar chips and funk – sittin’ there, looking you straight in the eyeballs, just screaming at you to eat it. The finish on this wine lasts for weeks and continues to provide a good jolt of reach-around.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena: W.E.P. Rating: 90%

  • Vintage: 2006
  • Final Blend: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc 
  • Fruit Source: 100% estate grown Farming: California 
  • Appellation: St. Helena
  • Harvest Date: October 9 – 26, 2006
  • Sugar: 18 months in oak, 100% French oak, 65% new
  • Acid: 6.1g/L TA
  • PH: 3.61pH
  • Brix at Harvest: 25.2
  • Bottling Date: June 16 – 17, 2008
  • Alcohol %: 14.1% alcohol by volume
  • Price: $45

Nose: “Forest-funk” combined with classic cherry, rose petal, plum and raspberry. A bit of cola action on the nose as well. I’m also picking up some spice as well. 

Taste: Black pepper, dark cherries, hints of raspberry and spice. I’m also get some chocolate, big league chew, eucaliptus and tobacco. A bit of caramel and tar action too on the back of the palate. this is a really good cab that’d rock the ball right out of the park when paired with a pan-seared, pepper-crusted steak. The finish is like the settled-down middle-aged person that knows who he/she is and where they’re going in life – very solid. 

Winery website: www.ehlersestate.com

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wines, Merlot, ReviewsComments (0)

2004 Lightcatcher Reserve Merlot – Review

It’s been a lot of personal fun over the past few years to watch Texas grow its wine industry – it is now the 5th-largest wine-producing state in the Union. Its vast landsapes have been doing a good job with certain grapes varieties and more recently we’ve started to see some bordeaux grapes popping up, but can Texas do them justice?

Lightcatcher Winery is located in the famous “Grapevine” area just outside of Dallas/Ft. Worth which is now home to scores of wineries – most of which are bringing Texas-pride to their products.

Technical Data:

  • Alcohol: 14.9%
  • Oak: Aged for 35 months
  • Price: $32

Nose: Massive amounts of oak here – I’m still pulling the splinters out of my nose hairs. I saw that this wine was aged 35months on oak and that immediately worried me as being over-oaked and so far, the nose confirms that. In fact, the nose is so strong of oak that I barely pick up the blackberries, tobacco and road-tar elements.

Taste: Like the nose, there is so much freakin’ oak going on here that everything else is blown out the window. Menthol, medicince cabinet action with some plum and black cherry. The finish is cluttered with the splinters of oak I have to pick out of my teeth and is too hot.  I guess “they” aren’t joking when they say “everything is bigger in Texas” – in this case it clearly applies to the oak – maybe 35months is a bit too long eh?

Bottom Line: I’m sure there are merlot’s in Texas that are good, however – to me – this is not one of them and at $32 dollars, I’m gonna give it a major pass. This wine will cater to those who might work in the lumber industry or those who appreciate the fact they won’t have to look for a toothpick after dinner since they already have a mouth-full of them from drinking this wine.

W.E.P. Rating: 20%

Winery website: www.lightcatcher.com

This wine gets our new “oak bomb” logo:

Posted in Reviews, Texas WinesComments (0)

High-end WA Merlot Round-up

Washington State has made its mark among wine drinkers all over the world with its Bordeaux varieties and out of those, Merlot is standing strong. In this 3-way round-up, I take bottles from three leading producers out of Walla Walla and see how they stack up. Each bottle retails for near the $50 dollar mark so this should prove to be rather interesting. We have producers up here in this state which are committed to making some of the best wines anywhere at any price – with all grape varieties – three of which are: PepperBridge, Northstar and Long Shadows Vintners.

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2005 Northstar Walla Walla Merlot: W.E.P. Score: 80%

Technical Data:

  • Total Acidity 0.58/100 ml
  • pH 3.73
  • Alcohol 14.4%
  • Blend 80% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot
  • The barrel regime included 80% French and 20% American oak, with 80% new barrels. The final blend consists of fruit from 8 distinct vineyard blocks. 
  • Price: $50.00

Nose; Blackberries, currant, piecrust, tobacco, dark chocolate and pepper. Hints of charred bell pepper skin on the nose as well as leather glove. Sweaty arm-pit. 

Taste: Big-time blackberry, black cherry and cola along with big doses of black pepper and some chunks of leather – pretty good mouth-feel on this wine, however the finish is too short for a wine of its price-tag. 


2005 Pedestal Merlot: W.E.P. Score: 100%

Technical Data:

  • 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 
  • Price: $50 

Nose: Blackberry-soaked road-kill with black and white pepper coated over it- I also get blueberries, plum, gym-sock, baseball mit, black cherries and allspice. 

Taste: Excellent layering of flavors going on in this wine – the blueberry component is shining through as is the plum and spice. Big amounts of dark chocolate as well. I find the oak to be very well balanced with the almost obnoxious fruit coming through. Great tannin structure – this wine will easily lay down for the next 10-15 years and tastes great now as well.  This is by far one of the most elegant Merlot’s I’ve ever had anywhere and at any price.


2005 PepperBridge Merlot: W.E.P. Score: 80%

Technical Data:
  • Varietal:  86% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec
  • Vineyard:  56% Pepper Bridge Vineyard, 44% Seven Hills Vineyard
  • Appellation:  100% Walla Walla Valley
  • Oak Program:  100% French oak, 54% new oak, 46% used oak
  • Time in Barrels:  18 months
  • Harvest Date:  September 19 through October 6, 2005
  • Brix at Harvest:  25.3
  • Total Acidity:  0.55 g/ml
  • pH:  3.72
  • Finished Alcohol:  13.9% by volume
  • Total Production:  1,351 (9-liter cases) and 30 cases of magnums
  • Bottling Date:  April 13, 2007
  • Release Date:  December 1, 2007   
  • Price:   $50.00

Nose: Heavy pepper and blackberries, blueberry, hints of tar and tobacco. I also get hints of some “Greenness” – a bit vegetal – sort of like charred bell pepper. A good, elegant nose which shows off lots of new world fruit with some of that old-school veggie action.

Taste: Layers of black fruit arise from hints of burnt ash, cedar box, tar and some tobacco. Toss in a hints of leather glove and stinky arm-pit. This wine had great potential to wow me, however, it just falls a bit too flat on the back-end of the palate. 

*How we review wines

Posted in Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

WA vs CA – “Cheap Merlot” Shootout

This is a review I’ve actually been looking forward to for quite some time now and not because we’re dealing with cheap merlot here but because it’s WA vs. Cali. Washington produces more Merlot than any other red grape but California has been at it a lot longer. Both states have incredible wineries doing a really good job with this grape and each also have large-scale wineries which churn out wines for the cheap-skates.

For this review – I went to a local store and snatched up four bottles – two from each state and the only criteria is that they had to cost under $8 as we wanted to see what was possible from each state at this given price point.

I conducted each of these tastings completely blind in that I had someone else pour each wine and bring it out to me – one at a time, so I had no clue as to which wine I was drinking at the time.

2005 Hogue Cellars Merlot: W.E.P. Rating: 10%

* The fruit was harvested between September 5th and October 24th at an average 24.7°Brix.
* The base wines fermented primarily with Pasteur Red yeast for an average of five days at a peak temperature of 91°F.
* After pressing they were all inoculated for malolactic fermentation and allowed to reach dryness with frequent racking.
* Once dry, the wines were aged, with oak exposure for up to ten months with the goal of preserving fruit and mellowing the wine.

Technical Data
* Appellation: Columbia Valley, Washington
* Varietal Percentages: 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot
* Brix at Harvest: 24.7°
* Total Acidity: 0.63/100 ml
* pH: 3.77
* Alcohol: 13.9% by volume
* Release Date: June 2006

Nose: Shoe polish, leather straps and blackberries and my dad’s smelly socks..

Taste: A really unbalanced effort that’s completely disjointed for me. It’s fruity, it’s dry and really makes me wish I had those 10-seconds of my life back… The tannins completely overpower the fruit here.

2004 “Two-Vines” Columbia Crest Merlot: W.E.P. Rating: 70%

* Grapes were destemmed, crushed and inoculated to begin fermentation.
* Fermentation lasted 7-10 days on the skins, with a twice-daily pumpover regime.
* The wine aged 12 months in French and American oak barrels.

Technical Data
* Total acidity: 0.53 g/100ml
* pH: 3.66
* Alcohol: 13.50%

Nose: Dark plums and pepper-coated sued pants – some subtle hints of blueberry as well..

Taste: Cherry-coke without the fizz but mixed with white pepper and black raspberries and black plums. I also get the ramblings of some leather components as well and vanilla. Once again, the finish is too short and a bit too hot.

2003 St. George “Coastal” Merlot: W.E.P. Rating: 70%

Technical Data
* Appellation: California
* Alcohol: 12.3%
* Total Acidity: .61gm/100ml
* pH: 3.4
* Residual Sugar: .20

Nose: Not a strong nose here – I do pick up hints of cherries and tobacco with a slight twinge of white chocolate.

Taste: Serviceable – plums, black raspberry with hints of fruity pebbles. I get some dill pickle action on the end with a hot, short finish.

2005 Bohemian Highway Merlot: W.E.P. Rating: 80%

Technical Data
* Alcohol: 13%
* Residual Sugar: .5
* Total Acid: .63
* pH: 3.50

Nose: This wine has the most “grassy” smell out of the four – there’s some good vegetal action up in my grill like, tomato, asparagus and TONS of bell pepper. Blackberry and black plums round things out – this one definitely has the best nose of the bunch.

Taste: Will the person who left this piece of oak furniture in my glass please come forward? Huge vanilla notes which do come across as WAY over-oaked… Insane amounts of blueberry and blackberry for days.. Not a bad finish – it lingers on for a bit and isn’t too hot like the other wines. Nice peppery finish..

Overall Summary:
So I really wasn’t a huge fan of any of these four wines – the one I had the best hopes for, the Bohemian, has a tub of oak in it which killed it for me and the others were just rather uneventful. There are far too many other wines for the $8 mark which I’d easily gravitate to, the likes of most are from Argentina.

If you’re after an affordable Merlot then do yourself a favor and don’t be such a cheap-skate, spring for a couple more dollars or look to other producers and get something better.

Posted in Merlot, Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

2005 Milbrandt Traditions Merlot

I reviewed Milbrandt Vineyards‘ Riesling last month and wasn’t too impressed so I decided to give its 2005 Merlot a go to see if perhaps they can make red wine better than white. Butch Milbrandt and company sell tons of excellent fruit to some of Washington State’s top wineries so logic would have one believe their wines should be good as well, no?

Technical Notes:

  • Composition: Merlot (84%), Cabernet Sauvignon (12%), Barbera (4%)
  • Vineyards: Clifton, Clifton Hills, Sundance, Winebeau Vineyards
  • Alcohol: 14.8%
  • TA: 0.59
  • pH: 3.67
  • Price: $17

Nose: Leather-bound blackberries laced with white and black pepper. Slight hints of greeness smell old-world. I pick up some fire-roasted green pepper and some shoe polish.

Taste: Jammy blackberry spice with hints of black cherries and currants, really hot starting on the mid-palate and completely falls apart on the back-end.

Overall Summary:
For $17 this wine completely loses it for me – it’s clearly not worth the price as there are far superior wines (some of which I’ve reviewed) that absolutley knock this Merlot out of the park and beat it down like a thug in a back alley with a baseball bat. If you’re in the market for a good merlot, check out the H3 from Columbia-Crest or a good blend like the Fidelitas m100.

W.E.P. Scale Rating: 50%

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2005 Columbia Crest Merlot – H3 vs. Grand Estates

Just about every wine-drinker in the state of Washington and well beyond its boarders – is Columbia Crest. There is few other wineries this side of Chateau St. Michelle which have done more to propigate and further the local industry. It’s reach is very pervasive and they’ve done a great deal to help promote the greater good of Washington wines.

For years now, it has had its 2-vine (cheap) series, a Grand Estates version and Reserve – earlier this year, however, it introduced its H3 brand. It’s called H3 because of its Horse Heaven Hills designated vineyards in which 100% of the fruit comes from. In contrast, Grand Estates could be sourced from other places within the greater Columbia Valley.

Starting at around the $10 mark, its Grand Estates is generally a pretty safe-bet as far as wine values go. It’s typically a fruit-bomb with layers of oak and some good complexity for its price.

The H3 label is a more premium one which fills the price-gap in its current line-up between the Grand Estates and Reserve lines. This was my first time with the H3 merlot, so it was fun for me to be able to check out what’s going on there.

2005 Grand Estates Merlot: W.E.P. Scale Rating: 80%
Technical Data
• Total acidity: 0.61 g/100ml
• pH: 3.73
• Alcohol: 13.9%
• Grapes were destemmed and crushed with 10% whole berries
remaining, then fermented on skins 7-10 days with a twice-daily
pumpover regime to gently extract color, aromas and flavors.
• The wine aged for 12-14 months in French (60%) and American
(40%) oak barrels. The blend includes Viognier (co-fermented)
to add complexity to the bouquet and also depth and nuance
to the finished wine.

Nose: Subtle blackberry and raw venison on the nose with dashes of pepper. The Vanilla isn’t near as strong here as it is on the H3 Merlot. I get some shoe leather, and the smell of carmalized carrots.

Taste: All fruit forward with little across the mid and zilch on the end of the palate. Dried blackberry and black cherry with components of leather and spice. This wine is a total fruit bomb made for those folks as a good alternative to other similarly-priced or cheaper merlots.

Summary: I didn’t like this one as much as the H3 and I was even poured them in a blind scenario (had my son bring both glasses out to me without telling me what they were). Its finish wasn’t near as long or smooth as the H3 and quite frankly there are other wines in its price-range which I find more interesting.

2005 H3 Merlot: W.E.P. Scale Rating: 100%
Technical Data
• Total acidity: 0.55 g/100ml
• pH: 3.69
• Alcohol: 14.3%
• Grapes were crushed at 30% whole-berry to retain the fruit quality.
• Fermentation lasted 7-14 days on the skins to extract optimum fruit and structural components.
• Various yeasts were used to maintain fruit flavors and complexity.
• Malolactic fermentation occurred in stainless steel tanks and oak barrels.
• Blending occurred shortly after malolactic fermentation.
• The wine was barrel aged in 40% new American and French oak, and 60% older oak for 14-18 months.

Nose: Jammy blackberry and blueberry with a hint of leather strip and white pepper. Some big league chew and twizzler action on the nose here. Also picking up the toasted vanilla component from the oak.

Taste: Vanilla-coated blackberries and cherries covered in a dash of pepper. Good fruit forward on the palate – smooth on the mid but gets a bit hot on the back-end of the palate. Picking up a hint of red clay as well on the end.

Summary: This is a well-priced Merlot which brings with it a good amount of worthiness. I like this Merlot and for $12 or so, I’d hit it. It’ll easily pair with any Lamb dish I can think of or a good, artisan-style pizza and red-sauced pasta dishes.

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Saint Laurent 2004 Merlot

Named after the famous martyr, Staint Laurent is a relatively new winery on the Washington wine scene and has seemed to have done a good job of ramping up quickly when it comes to producting quality wines. He was the staint of the poor and in that tradition, Saint Laurent winery celebrates that tradition with good food and wine on August 8th.

Staint Laurent has an incredible story to its 80-acre vineyard which dates back to the mid 1800s – its originator had a passion for wine and even the original irrigation ditch is still in use today.

Its 2004 Merlot is priced around $18 and is aiming at hitting that $12-$20 sweet spot for wine sales as anything over the $20 mark is a tougher sell unless you have a mass cult-like following.

Color: Deep purple

Nose: Sweaty sock, some blueberry, leather glove, toasted nuts, tar, tobacco, blackberry, dark plums,

Taste: Black peppered, homemade strawberry jam mixed with dark chocolate, some asphalt and tobacco. It’s not as velvety as I’d hope for based on the nose and overall flavor profile but still does a decent job of lingering.

Finish: Pretty good, nice and medium-long….but a bit too hot for me.

Summary: There are other wines in this price category I think I’d rather spring the money for which do a better job of delivering a better finish and overall experience. This wine is clearly not a bad wine at all, however, just not my first pick given its price.

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Gifford-Hirlinger – Double Review

The winery with a name that sounds more like that of a law office is on deck today and they’re a pretty new winery out in Walla Walla but are one of the fortunate ones which own its own vineyards.

I got the chance to interview its winemaker, Michael Berghan, the other day at the Taste WA event and he’s a very likable individual. He’s full of passion, has a good pedigree of winemaking and vineyard management skills from his workings in the Napa-region so, naturally, I was looking forward to getting some quality time with his latest wines.

2005 Stateline Red – Retail $22
This table wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and weighs in at a 13.8% alcohol level which is about where I like to see them. This wine is barreled 100% neutral oak which consisted of a mix of American, Hungarian and French. This is a very young wine which really would do well to decant for at least an hour or two, if not longer.

Smell: Typical berry component – cherries, raspberries and slight hints of toasty vanilla, petrol.
Hints of perfume counter action – lavender and white pepper – a little dentist laughing gas mask action and bits of medicine cabinet – like of eucalyptus.

Taste: Floods the front palate with fresh berries – a bit hot on the mid palate with subtleties of vanilla…some blackberry on the finish. It doesn’t linger quite as long as I’d like to see – a bit too short for me, as I’m a huge fan of super-long finishes.

Overall Impressions of the 2005 Stateline Red:
It’s a decent table wine and pairs very well with a variety of foods. Mike does a good job here of keeping balance of fruit, oak but the finish is a bit shorter than other wines I’ve had for a similar pricepoint.

Food recommendations for the Stateline include:
– Steak
– Buffalo
– Duck
– Lamb
– Oven-roasted root vegetables with rosemary

2005 Merlot – Retail $26
A near identical blend as the Stateline Red, this Merlot is 86% and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, however, Michael uses a different barrel program of mostly (60%) new oak (40% Hungarian and 60% French) whilst the Stateline is barreled in neutral oak.

Like the Stateline Red, this Merlot is very young and either needs to lie down for a few more years or needs a serious decant-job – I’d go four hours on it easy.

Smell: Huge dark cherry and blackberry and plum component on the nose – some big league chew. Black peppercorn – slight hint of carpet shampoo.

Taste:  Good mouth-feel, pretty good balance of fruit and oak – the fruit does a good job of keeping the oak tamed and the finish is nice and long. Good bits of chocolate coming thru as well.

Overall impressions of the 2005 Merlot:
The merlot would be my first pick as I feel it’s doing a better job of delivering a good experience for the price-point. Outside of the fact that it has more layers of flavors going on in, it should also have a really good cellaring potential. To me, this merlot is sort of like The Eagles band – after Hell Freezes Over – it keeps the goodness of their original sound, yet does a great job of appealing to a newer, younger audience.

Food recommendations for the Merlot:
– Lamb w/ a Rosemary-mint glaze
– Duck
– Slow-cooked pot-roast
– Oven-roasted root vegetables with rosemary

Overall Summary:
Both of these wines are contenders in their respective price ranges and do a good job of balancing the fruit – There are other wines in these price categories which may appeal to other people who enjoy getting their socks knocked off with an over-abundance of oak or fruit, these wines – especially the merlot – are not that style at all. In fact, they almost have an old-world kind of style here and stay very focused.

I’d really like to see where these wines are at in 3-7 years but like all to many wineries now-days, it seems like they release stuff still on the young side as holding bottles doesn’t allow the revenue’s to come in. I get it. It’s a tough battle.

GH has a good, solid effort with both of these wines and I’d highly encourage you to seek them out and try them yourself. I feel they’re pretty well priced – not too expensive, yet probably won’t become a daily-drinker for some folks. Regardless, seek them out and try them and let me know what you think or better yet, post your thoughts in our forums.

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