There is a reason why merlot is one of the most popular red wine varietals in the world. It’s also one of the most maligned. Stop me if you’ve heard this, but there’s a certain movie from 2004 that cost farmers around 400 million dollars as consumers turned their backs on the varietal. Thankfully Merlot is returning to its rightful place as a favorite with consumers.
For the last seven years, hundreds of Merlot producers have been mounting a movement to celebrate Merlot, designating October as International Merlot Month. More than 100 Merlot producers, wine merchants, restaurants and consumers will taste and toast online (using #MerlotMe), at events, in wine stores, restaurants and homes across the world this October in 41 states and 32 countries. I have tasted four samples so far (and they are still coming), and I’ll have a follow up for the others that come in. I’ve been thrilled to taste the quality and range of this varietal. They have all been fantastic and the ones I have yet to taste include some outside of California and some different wines from the same vineyard, so it’s going to be fun to see even more diversity.
For more than 200 years, Merlot has been a foundational grape in the wine world – from Bordeaux to Washington to California – used to make some of the finest wines. The Merlot grape, which translates to blackbird in French, became the most planted grape in Bordeaux and is used in some of the world’s most desired wines.
It remains the most grown grape in the region and is second in production only to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Let me walk you through the first samples tried. More to come, but I wanted to hit the October Merlot month deadline.
2018 Markham Vineyards Marked Parcel Yountville Ranch Vineyard — This was a special one that made us sit up and take notice. It’s crafted from a single parcel and made into 18 barrels into full of black fruit, chocolate, and elegance. Really a great discovery and built for some bottle age. My husband immediately inquired on how to find more (hint – on the winery’s website).
2018 Mt Brave Mt. Veeder Merlot – Such a beautiful example of mountain fruit with spice, red and black berries, herbs, juniper flowers and elegance.
2019 LaJota Vineyard Co Howell Mountain Merlot — Another expression of mountain fruit, yet a very different one. This one is a force of nature – I tasted red fruit, dried plum, earth, herbs and graphite and chocolate.
2018 St Supery Rutherford Estate Vineyard Merlot — this is a great expression of merlot with lots of black fruit, chocolate, black pepper, vanilla and a great finish. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
Every merlot I tasted was expressive, diverse, and delightful representing its sense of place, time and conditions of a varietal that has an important part of wine history. More to come soon!