This one is for PJ.
See, when I was a snot-nosed know-it-all in college, I had a bad experience with Merlot. I took that bad experience with that one bottle to mean that *all* Merlot sucked – so much so that when Sideways managed to damage Merlot sales for years with one throwaway line,* I was proud of myself for already hating Merlot as though I had any idea what I was talking about.**
Then, roughly 10 months ago, I had a bottle of Emmolo Merlot, and discovered that I don’t hate all Merlot. Apparently I like relatively pricey Merlot quite a bit. Even after the Emmolo, however, I thought I still hated cheap Merlot – like my sudden affection for one not-cheap bottle (two, actually: the L’Ecole 31 Merlot is bloody beautiful as well) meant that the only Merlot worth drinking was Merlot I couldn’t normally afford.
Turns out I was wrong again. I don’t hate cheap Merlot either. I just hate bad Merlot.
So here’s a good Merlot that’s also affordable.
and the semi-obligatory photo of the light on my kitchen ceiling as seen through a 5oz pour of this wine in my 16oz glass:
Region: Monterey County, CA
Grapes involved: Merlot
Cost: $12-$15 -ish
Food pairings: Do what I did and have it with baguette, mozzarella and duck skin. Or, you know, don’t. But duck would work, especially if in confit form and dumped on top of a huge pile of spring greens or any other kind of fun lettuce-y stuff you’re into.
So what makes an affordable Merlot not suck? It’s pretty much everything here.
The wine smells like this huge pile of plum, bright tart cherry, violet leaf, and a touch of leather(!)*** and chocolate. Bittersweet, very dark chocolate. The longer it aerates, the more the plummy cherry scents come out to play. That said, it never goes fruit bomb, either - there’s a definitely balance between the fruity aspects and the other notes.
Flavor-wise, there’s an initial hit of milk chocolate before everything else hits , which is really fun – I was put in the mind of a Hershey’s Kiss for a moment. After that first moment, it blows up into bright red tart cherries and plum – bright and acidic – before softening again into violet, violet leaf, and a bit of garden soil. This is a medium-bodied wine with fairly firm tannins that balance well with the acidity and an alcoholic sort of brightness – yet it does all of that with a bit of softness, if that makes ANY sense whatsoever. The finish is long and reminiscent of really tart green apples that have been lightly dusted in violet sugar.
So there you go: inexpensive Merlot that is also awesome Merlot. I spent a solid decade of my life thinking such a thing was an impossibility. I’m really happy to have been proven wrong.
And PJ, enjoy your new job. They’re effing lucky to have you.
*from the film:
Jack: If they want to drink Merlot, we’re drinking Merlot.
Miles Raymond: No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!
…Miles then proceeds to spend the rest of the film extolling the virtues of Pinot Noir
in spite of because of its general pain in the ass level, because Miles is like that.
**yeah, I can be hipster like that. It’s not pretty.
***leather scents in wine are so, so awesome <3