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Jenise

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Re: WT101: Merlot - Was Miles right?

by Jenise » Tue Jun 06, 2006 12:26 pm

Bill, just posted it in the Kitchen.
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Paul Winalski

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Re: WT101: Merlot - Was Miles right?

by Paul Winalski » Tue Jun 06, 2006 3:14 pm

At least in California, merlot seems to have suffered the same fate as chardonnay--a high-class grape with a great reputation, mas-produced into mediocrity. Just as "chardonnay" has become a synonym for "generic white wine" to the non-serious US wine drinker, so has merlot become a synonym for "generic red wine". In most cases, if you order it you'll get something that is, to quote the Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "mostly harmless".

So the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) backlash movement has now been followed by ABM (Anything But Merlot).

I wonder if "Sideways" is going to turn pinot noir into the next merlot, or whether the difficulties with growing that vine variety will save it from becoming the next generic CA red?

-Paul W.
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Re: Not shunning Merlot in Washington

by Paul Winalski » Tue Jun 06, 2006 3:17 pm

My problem with Washington State merlots, and cabernets as well, are the producers' infatuation with oak. It's been a long time since I had a chance to try very many WA wines (few make it to New Hampshire), but the last time I looked nearly all of them had more oak inflicted on them than they deserved or could gracefully handle. More oak than any wine could gracefully handle, for that matter.

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Re: WT101: Merlot - Was Miles right?

by Jenise » Tue Jun 06, 2006 3:24 pm

Paul said:
At least in California, merlot seems to have suffered the same fate as chardonnay--


Paul, you're so right. I'm reminded of the time I was in a wine store in Anchorage, Alaska. The Japanese consul wandered in with an entourage seeking "the red chardonnay." Took us a few minutes to get into their logic and deduce that they wanted merlot.
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Re: WT101: Merlot - Was Miles right?

by Paul B. » Tue Jun 06, 2006 3:29 pm

Paul Winalski wrote:I wonder if "Sideways" is going to turn pinot noir into the next merlot, or whether the difficulties with growing that vine variety will save it from becoming the next generic CA red?

Paul, I think that that is precisely the danger that comes with the mass-marketing of anything: the grape itself may be excellent, but churning wine from it out in mass quantities (obviously non-artisanally) may bring about its downfall through high-quantities of mediocrity. It's part of the downside of economic success, and as I often like to say, quality wine and economic objectives are frequently very strange, if not antipodean, bedfellows.
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Re: Not shunning Merlot in Washington

by Sam Platt » Tue Jun 06, 2006 4:24 pm

Paul Winalski wrote:I wonder if "Sideways" is going to turn pinot noir into the next merlot, or whether the difficulties with growing that vine variety will save it from becoming the next generic CA red?


I am afraid that Pinot is already being made generic in Central California anyway. We toured Santa Barbara wine country last summer and found quite generic Pinots at outrageous prices. The wineries were charging $45 per bottle, or more, for Pinot that was bland and weak with no real potential for improvement over time. One winery had marked up the price of their Pinot two times by simply drawing a pen line through the old price and writing in a new one, $10 higher, each time. I will just stick to the Pinots I enjoy from the Northwest and the Cotes, and let Cali decide what path it intends to follow.
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Re: Not shunning Merlot in Washington

by Hoke » Tue Jun 06, 2006 5:50 pm

I am afraid that Pinot is already being made generic in Central California anyway. We toured Santa Barbara wine country last summer and found quite generic Pinots at outrageous prices. The wineries were charging $45 per bottle, or more, for Pinot that was bland and weak with no real potential for improvement over time. One winery had marked up the price of their Pinot two times by simply drawing a pen line through the old price and writing in a new one, $10 higher, each time. I will just stick to the Pinots I enjoy from the Northwest and the Cotes, and let Cali decide what path it intends to follow.


Sam, I don't think you can attribute that solely to Sideways. They were doing that kind of stuff before the movie even came out. :)

Actually, I think they learned it from the Oregon wineries (where it seems like $30 is the commonly agreed upon rock bottom discount starting price from which to build with the first vintage release). :D :D :D
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Re: Twelve serious Washington Merlots

by Jeff Masnari » Tue Jun 06, 2006 9:27 pm

Randy I knew I could count on you to present at least some of the current high quality WA merlots. The current state of Washington merlots has improved dramatically in the last 5 years I find many of the wines you mention showing better balance ie. less alchohol, less oak and better acids. These merlots will evolve and hold your attention with some real structure and complexity.
I'll add one more wine to your list while not from Washington it still originates in the NW.

2003 Abacela Merlot exhibits beautiful balance and complexity with a good acid profile lifting the black fruits and revealing layers nuance. Abacela grapes originate in the Umpqua and Rogue Valley of Oregon which is further south of the Pinot producing areas of Oregon an intriguing new area of Oregon. Everything I have had from this producer I have been very impressed with. Oh yeah a nice price around $16-$18.

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Re: WT101: Merlot - Was Miles right?

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Jun 07, 2006 1:14 am

Always a big seller at the Grill here downtown (along with the tannic Claret), I thought I would push the boat out with this one. From an earlier posting, there does not appear to be much support for some of the Coppola wines although the Bianco and Rosso have quite a following.

WTN: Francis Coppola Diamond Series Blue Label Merlot `03 (California).

Opened for an hour and decanted which did not appear to help all that much! 13.5%.

Colour. Semi-opaque in the centre with developed purple tinges on the rim. Is this the classic colour for merlot? Some nice thick legs that linger on.

Nose. Inviting black fruits gush out of the glass. Ripe blackberry and hint of vanilla, savoury spice too and some cocoa after 24 hrs.

Palate. Blueberry hits on initial entry mouthfeel. Still has some tannins and really needs food This is some pretty serious wine here, some spice on the finish and quite ripe. Many will now say..oh hum!! Nice balance but does it have enough grip/chewyness? Found some chocolate after an hour on the finish and brief flash of cedar.

After 24 hrs, still has plenty of blueberry and blackberry on the palate that lingers. Very jammmy at this later stage. Can now see why a big seller ion the winelist, very accessible without being too serious. Did I like it? Good for a starter this month.
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Re: Twelve serious Washington Merlots

by ClarkDGigHbr » Wed Jun 07, 2006 2:37 am

Randy Buckner wrote:I think even Miles would enjoy some of these. Look to WA for serious Merlot.

2003 Tamarack, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $28, 1,456 cases. Purple/red in color, this is a full-throttled Merlot with jammy overtones and firm, rounded tannins. Black cherries, berries and white pepper spice come together to make a tasty package; 90/90.


About a month after seeing the movie Sideways about a year and a half ago, we were in a restaurant and I ordered a bottle of this 2003 Tamarack Merlot. I had this strange feeling that all conversation stopped and everyone in the place was staring at me. Well, it was just my imagination running away with me. The wine was delicious albeit young.

I'm honestly surprised to not see Donedei on this list. It is the only Merlot I've purchased at a store in the past 5 years or so.

-- Clark
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Re: Not shunning Merlot in Washington

by Daniel Paulson » Wed Jun 07, 2006 3:30 am

Hi All,
I would like to agree with the assertion that merlot differs pretty significantly between California and Washington. I first fell in love with merlot in 2001 when I was spending a summer in London. There was a wine bar up the street from where I was living called HaHa that had, what seemed at the time, as the most wonderful merlot (Wild Pig, i believe) in the world.

So, I got back to the States after study abroad and tried to duplicate the experience with no luck. I had almost given up. Bottle after bottle of merlot left me wishing for my wine bar in London, until this evening. I have half bottle left over from Sunday night of Californian merlot (same experience Jenise described - herby and cold...), so I picked up a bottle of Washington merlot for comparison. The only merlot I could find at the local grocery store that met my needs is a bottle of Red Diamond 2002. It isn't quite what I remember from London, but it's much closer - dark fruit (i think), moderate tannins, maybe a little overly-oaked, a little thin after the initial taste, but perks up with a nice long finish... altogether, not bad for $8.50. We ate it with rosemary-encrusted pork ("bastille day pork chops" on epicurious.com).

I knew merlot wasn't all bad! Thanks for the shopping tip. Now that I know what to look for, I can renew my love of merlot!

Drink well,
Daniel
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Re: Twelve serious Washington Merlots

by Jenise » Wed Jun 07, 2006 10:26 am

Clark, I too am surprised that Randy didn't mention Donadei's merlot since many of us learned about that winery from him. I'll be cracking a bottle in the next few days.
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Re: Not shunning Merlot in Washington

by Sam Platt » Wed Jun 07, 2006 4:57 pm

Hoke wrote:Sam, I don't think you can attribute that solely to Sideways. They were doing that kind of stuff before the movie even came out.


Hoke, I'm sure that you are correct. I have no pre-Sideways basis for comparison. I was surprised at how brazen the wineries were in simply marking out one price, such that it was still clearly visible, and then manually writing in another higher price. The non-Pinot wines seemed to be much more in line with my pricing expectations. That's why I attributed the Pinot premium to the effect of Sideways. I was just plain not on board with paying $45 for a Pinot of $10 quality, even for the privilege of buying it at a winery that appeared in Sideways.
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Re: Not shunning Merlot in Washington

by Hoke » Wed Jun 07, 2006 5:27 pm

I just heard from someone that was down in the Santa Barbara area that quite a few wineries are approaching the Sideways phenomenon and its aftermath with humor: several are apparently putting up banners and signs saying "Was not featured in Sideways". :D

But we see that pricing thing up here in the North Coast from time to time as well. Some wineries pride themselves on being that trendy. I think it's rather a tawdry thing myself.

There's one winery that takes that sort of arrogance to an extreme point (and I honestly don't know if its unconscious arrogance because they don're realize what they're doing, or whether they are doing it on purpose). When you go into Rochioli, which is a small tasting room, they usually have a sign up telling you what you can taste that day. They usually have a sign up telling you you're limited to perhaps one or two bottles of something. So far, so good.

But at the same time, you see case stacks of various sizes lined up against the walls all the way around the room...these are the newsletter/mailing list allocated cases waiting to be shipped out.

So the message has always been explicit to me---and I think to anyone that walks into the room---that you as a walk in just don't count all that much and they are just being threshhold-level courteous to you, and you'll only really count if you manage to somehow get on their mailing list.

I don't go back there much anymore. Usually only when someone visting makes a point of wanting to stop there. Too....Napa. 8)
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Re: Not shunning Merlot in Washington

by Sam Platt » Thu Jun 08, 2006 9:26 am

Hoke wrote:So the message has always been explicit to me---and I think to anyone that walks into the room---that you as a walk in just don't count all that much...


I refuse to patronize any establishment, no matter what product they offer, that acts like they are doing me a favor by allowing me to make a purchase from them. Several restaurants, and one high end handbag store - "I'm sorry Sir, but we don't encourage browsing" - come to mind. Good for you for not visiting that particular winery, Hoke.
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Re: Not shunning Merlot in Washington

by JC (NC) » Thu Jun 08, 2006 9:48 am

I can only say that I was mightily impressed by the 2002 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir which had grapes from Rochioli and Allen vineyards among others (so patronize Gary Farrell perhaps rather than Rochioli).

On Merlot--I may look for the Frei Reserve on the basis of Randy's review. Also I have opened a Bogle Merlot that was already on hand and plan to add one from Washington (perhaps the Three Rivers which I think I can find locally). I have on hand a high-end Australian Merlot from Irvine and for my French example will go with La Source which is 100% Merlot.
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Re: WT101: Merlot - Was Miles right?

by Terri T » Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:50 am

Hello all, this is my first post. Hope it isn't too wordy-
Although I have not seen "Sideways" I am aware of the sudden craze in Pinot Noirs. I am a VQA fan.
I do have a theory about Merlot however. As a wine peasant-snob and one who untill recently shunned all things California as too trendy/too oak-y, (a few years ago I was introduced to Paso Robles, Alexander Valley.. which changed my attitude), I have always given white zinfindale drinkers a hard time. To me they aren't wine drinkers at all, just a step above Boonsfarm. What I have noticed over the last couple of years is that as white zin has become kind of a low status wine, the zinnies have moved to California Merlots. Big fruity, sweet Merlots! Not really what they are about. So the real wine drinkers are less interested in Merlots because they have become mainstream and therefore uninteresting.
But I do occasionally buy a Merlot and enjoy it. One in particular is the Geyser Peak 2001 (11$). It has a full bodied taste, with some spice and a ruby red velvety finish. Very nice, and it goes well with chocolate. It has the depth that I like in wines, good color, and is easy to drink.
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Re: WT101: Merlot - Was Miles right?

by Terri T » Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:57 am

Gosh, now I'm a bit embarrassed. I do know how to spell Zinfandel...I do.. :wink:
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Re: WT101: Merlot - Was Miles right?

by Robin Garr » Thu Jun 08, 2006 11:00 am

Terri T wrote:Gosh, now I'm a bit embarrassed. I do know how to spell Zinfandel...I do.. :wink:


Terri, welcome to our group! Glad you found your way here, and please don't worry ... we don't grade on spelling ... all my errors are really just typing misteaks anyway.
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Jenise

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Re: WT101: Merlot - Was Miles right?

by Jenise » Thu Jun 08, 2006 11:04 am

Terri,

Welcome to WLDG! Good observation about white zin and merlots. Years ago in a fit of girlishness I grossed out the guys by calling white zin "the training bra of wine", meaning it's not a real bra and something to grow out of. From there it seems the newbie wine drinker progresses either to drier or fuller bodied whites like pinot grigio or chardonnay, or to reds. Many never get any further than merlot.

I'm glad you've found joy in the Geyser Peak--they do a pretty good job for their price point, don't they? Hope you're able to try some Washington merlots soon.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WT101: Merlot - Was Miles right?

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Jun 09, 2006 1:23 am

Many of us have had some pleasant experiences with most of the reds from Montes, Chile. The `03 Cab Sauv is a termendous wine so I picked this up to see how it might shape up in our Miles Merlot quest!

WTN: `03 Montes Alpha Merlot--Colchaqua Valley, Chile.

Opened 2hrs prior, decanted but no sediment noted. 14% alc with 15% Cab Sauv blended in.

Colour. Not quite as deep as the Coppola I posted on two days ago. Lovely red ruby with medium intense centre. Tinges of purple on the rim, nice.

Nose. Red bery, pepper and black cherry. Some earthyness here and some oak but does not detract. Appealing, expect a lot.Not a great deal of vanilla here, the tartness is apparent to me.

Palate. The initial entry mouthfeel is always important to me...well we have acidity here forumites!! It is rich and full of fruit and has a more terroir feel about it than the Coppola. Lot more grip, some vanilla and oaky tones but think will soften out in time. Elegant mid-palate, plummy and smooth tannins. The balance is getting there, but still needs some time. Like the ripe blackberries and cherry flavours, some faint licorice too. Very nice and great with BBQ steak.

Cost was $22 Cdn.
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WTN / WT101 / WineAdvisor: More Merlot (02 Keltie Brook)

by Robin Garr » Fri Jun 09, 2006 9:51 am

More Merlot

Continuing the discussion I started on Monday about our Wine Tasting 101 topic on <b>Merlot</b> this month, I realize that the memorable insult in <I>Sideways</i> had such an impact that I almost feel a need to apologize when I post a Merlot tasting report.

Almost, but not quite.

After all, a big part of being an open-minded wine enthusiast is to question the conventional wisdom and, when confronted with a wine rule or custom, check it out. While some wine rules ("don't sip good wine from a coffee mug") make more sense than others ("don't drink red wine with fish"), experience remains the best teacher. An appropriate skepticism about the things you're told can pay dividends ... in wine as in life.

So, putting the character Miles's snarky comment about Merlot out of my head, I opened a relatively modest California Merlot the other night, basing my choice on a trustworthy wine merchant's advice ... and enjoyed a pleasant surprise. The <b>2002 "Keltie Brook" Merlot</b> from California's North Coast (a catch-all appellation for fruit from Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties) might not qualify as a sought-after "cult" item, but this second label from the MacRostie winery in Napa, made from purchased fruit, boasts balance and a good acidic structure that lifts it well above the soft, plushy "chocolate-covered-cherry" character that makes mass-market Merlot popular with everyone but wine geeks.

<table border="0" align="right" width="170"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/kelt0607.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>MacRostie 2002 "Keltie Brook" North Coast Merlot ($14)

Dark blackish-purple, garnet edge. Plums and cherries, pleasant fresh fruit on the nose and palate, nicely balanced by snappy acidity. Well-made, nothing complex, but balance and acidity make it a much better table wine than your average Merlot. (June 7, 2006)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> Just about any pork, veal or poultry dish would do; it was fine with pork country-style spareribs scented with fennel seed in a pilaf-style dish with orzo.

<B>VALUE:</B> Not at all unreasonable at $14, which was a dollar below the winery price.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> Not really meant for aging, but it's not going anywhere in a year or two on the wine rack.

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
The winery Website features information on all the MacRostie wines including the Keltie Brook line, and offers online sales where the law permits.

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Compare prices and locate vendors for Keltie Brook Merlot on Wine-Searcher.com.
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Re: WT101: Merlot - Was Miles right?

by Terri T » Fri Jun 09, 2006 12:14 pm

Thanks for the welcome!
I love the training bra comment. It is perfect. And you are right about the zinnies moving over to the pinot grigio. They have really risen the prices on those since it is "popluar" now, I would rather have a crisp Savignon Blanc anyday.

Yes I think that Geyser Peak is good for the price, I also like J. Lohr, Estancia, La Crema, and Coppala's blue label Claret. All reasonable and consistently good.
T
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Re: WT101: Merlot - Was Miles right?

by Leticia Sanchez » Fri Jun 09, 2006 2:40 pm

:D

Terry, Have you tried the Coppola Claret Cab? I tried it at a restaurant with several delicious Italian dishes. I loved the creamy, full bodied texture of this cab. I have only been able to get the 2003 and not the 2000, which is what I had that memorable night. I am planning to buy several bottles at a wine shop that's quite a way from my neighborhood. No matter, I am willing to drive for this.
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