Merlot tasting at Fayetteville (NC) Wine Society - Printable Version

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- wondersofwine - 04-20-2011

We met in the party room of Luigi's on April 18 (limited to 30 people) to explore Merlot and prove that Miles in "Sideways" had it wrong. We were supposed to have an example from France (a 2000 St. Emilion) but the wine was not exactly what was ordered and tasted pretty bad so was left off the agenda. Luigi's provided bread with olive oil for dipping, penne with tomato sauce, portabella mushroom risotto, chicken florentine, and miniature cheesecakes with chocolate (petit four size), dark grapes and blackberries.

2007 FALESCO MERLOT, UMBRIA, ITALY I have had and liked this entry-level wine before in earlier vintages. Was not too impressed with it this evening but the FWS price of $13.50 might entice some buyers. It was mild-tasting and fruity and is aged in stainless steel.

2005 FALESCO MONTIANO, LAZIO, ITALY This wine has been on the Luigi's wine list for some time. 100% Merlot, old world style, shows some structure and tannin. Aged in small barriques.

2007 CASA LAPOSTOLLE CUVEE ALEXANDRE MERLOT, COLCHAGUA VALLEY, CHILE From estate-grown grapes. Showed viscosity. "Wine Spectator" rating of 91 points and "Wine Enthusiast" rating of 93 points.

Next we had three Merlots from Washington state:

2008 COLUMBIA CREST H3 (HORSE HEAVEN HILLS) MERLOT, COLUMBIA VALLEY, WASHINGTON This Merlot is a favorite of Teresa, owner of Grapes and Hops, and one of the co-founders of the Fayetteville Wine Society. It is very fruity (red fruits) with a long finish. I equate it to red plums and cherries. Great value at $13.50 for FWS members. Composed of 90% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Syrah. I ordered two bottles and think it would be liked at a church function by friends not really into wine. Easy drinking.

2007 NORTHSTAR MERLOT, COLUMBIA VALLEY, WASHINGTON 75% Merlot and some Petit Verdot. Denser and darker than the Columbia Crest H3. More cassis, less red fruit than the Columbia Crest. The grapes are from several different growers.

2007 L'ECOLE SEVEN HILLS VINEYARD MERLOT, WALLA WALLA, WASHINGTON Semi-opaque in the glass. Single-vineyard Merlot. The man to my left was saying "a watered down version of the previous wine" and I thought he was referring to the next wine so took issue with him but we were discussing two different wines. This did seem "light-bodied" compared to the Northstar and did not have much appeal to me.
Now on to three from California:

2007 SHAFER MERLOT, NAPA VALLEY, CA My favorite wine of the evening and I ordered two bottles (available for under $40 a bottle.) We were informed that Shafer plantings are 75% Merlot although they are also justly noted for the Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select and also make a Syrah called Relentless. More penetrating on the nose than the L'Ecole. More complexity and depth than the wines up to this point. Viscosity on the glass. I found this to be quite special!

2008 PALOMA MERLOT, NAPA VALLEY, CA Paloma basically makes only Merlot, 2400 cases a year. The grapes are grown on the highest elevation of Spring Mountain vineyards. The vineyard grapes were originally sold to other wineries but then the winemaker worked in Bob Foley's cellars making a wine of his own. The viscosity of this Merlot formed "waves" on the glass rather than vertical "legs." Bright cherry notes on nose and palate. I preferred this slightly over the Pahlmeyer but liked the Shafer better than both. Price for FWS members is over $50 a bottle.

2007 PAHLMEYER MERLOT, NAPA VALLEY, CA This may be too young to be showing well. (All wines were opened a few hours before serving and may have been decanted and then poured back into the bottles.) Seemed over-priced at more than $80 a bottle. Others around me preferred the less expensive Shafer over this or the Paloma Merlot. I suppose I would need to try again in 2 or 3 years to see what it can become but the Shafer, also a 2007 vintage, is drinking well now.

Nice evening and the presenters did prove Miles wrong--there are some nice Merlots out there if you hunt hard enough. The presenters said they had to work hard to round up the wines that we tried.

- Innkeeper - 04-20-2011

"2007 PAHLMEYER MERLOT, NAPA VALLEY, CA This may be too young to be showing well." Good observation Wonders; a little early by about six years. We have an '01 slated to be opened this year!