I’m going to blame the movie “Sideways” for any denigration I’ve ever done of Merlot. If you are not familiar with the movie it is a male chick flick about two guys on a road trip to wine country. One, Miles Raymond, wants a quiet week of golfing, eating good food, and drinking great wine. The other guy, Jack Cole, wants one last sexual fling before he marries and settles into domestic life. Wine is a significant subplot in the movie, where Miles the wine snob sings the praises of Pinot Noir while dumping all over Merlot. The wine industry has data that shows the movie caused a 16% increase in Pinot Noir sales and a 2% decline in Merlot sales, and as a result a significant lowering of Merlot prices.
If you had asked me a month ago what I thought about Merlot, my inner Miles Raymond would have told you that I really don’t drink too much of it. Well, I’m putting Miles to rest and declaring that I do enjoy Merlot, and I have the wines that prove it.
The wine that kicked off my Merlot redemption was the recently-reviewed Le Grand Chai 2010. You would then have to go back to March 30th, 2013 and read my review of Stonestreet Merlot to see a Merlot that wowed me. Now, does this mean Griffy is going to become the all Merlot channel? No. I rarely drink anything twice, but Merlot has certainly moved up my list of favorites. Oh, and anyone willing to donate a mixed case of fine Bordeaux First Growths or even super seconds, contact me and I will give you shipping instructions.
Today’s wine is Sonoma Vineyards Merlot 2010. Bordeaux is the spiritual home of Merlot but Sonoma does a really good version; richer and bolder, but tasty nonetheless. The winemaker here is Greg Morthole. Greg is a scientist-turned-winemaker and although most winemakers are viewed as artists, Greg, and really the American west coast in general, tend to be more methodical in their approach to making wine (sometimes I think too methodical, as in lab kit mentality).
That is not the case here, because in the Sonoma we have a beautiful work of art. The color is, you guessed it, RUBY-PURPLE RED! It is very pretty in the glass, but I’m just so tired of everything being ruby red. The wine had a great, long lasting nose. The taste was smooth, full-bodied, and came with all the fruit flavor you’d expect from a California wine. The Sonoma’s drink-by date was 2015, which surprised me a little. The first night I enjoyed a pairing with steak salad. The wine was perfect. The second night I savored the Sonoma all by itself while I watched my garden grow. The wine had gone a little flat, but not much; certainly not so I didn’t enjoy it. All my trials and tribulations often end up in a gentle pool of wine.
Now the fun part, let’s compare Le Grand Chai 2010 to the Sonoma Vineyards 2010. Both are 100% Merlots with the typical deep red color, though the Chai was a little lighter than the Sonoma. On the nose, while both were great the Sonoma was stronger, a bit more pronounced, and in a revelation that kinda rocks me I like the more subtle Le Grand slightly better. Holy Robert Parker, Batman! When it came to the taste, again both were awesome, but the Sonoma was the richer, bolder, more fruit forward experience I remembered with the Stonestreet Merlot too. Oh man, I have to say I like the more finesse taste of the Le Grand. I will admit, the differences I’m describing here folks are very subtle, but I’m definitely tasting them. I’m not saying the Le Grand was wine and the Sonoma was jam, but on a scale that comparison would be accurate.
I struggled to find the comparison that would explain what I was experiencing. At first I thought BMW vs. Mercedes, but both of those are German, not American and French. And I know there are differences but not enough to matter to me. Next, I thought of fashion. Specifically of the differences between say Ralph Lauren vs. Yves St. Laurent. But again, if I saw one person dressed in Ralph Lauren and the other St. Laurent, I could maybe tell some subtle differences but I couldn’t tell one from the other. I needed something distinct for each. Then it hit me and boy am I going to be in trouble with this comparison: women. Yup, I’m doing this! The difference was like the differences between a French woman and an American woman. Both are beautiful, (pander, pander, pander) but American woman are, oh god, bigger, bolder, louder (keep digging Griffy) and more (eek) vocal? Meanwhile, my impression of French women are that they are smaller, more refined than flamboyant, subtle, and quiet. Maybe I’m just channeling my inner Jack Cole, the other character from the movie “Sideways” and I might be dead wrong, or likely just dead when the women who read this are done with me. But, it’s my blog and I’m sticking to it!
So in conclusion, the Sonoma Vineyards has bigger hips than the Le Grand, but if you’re lucky enough to sample either one, like a good woman both will leave a smile on your face.
Signing off from a bunker, deep below the steel and concrete of a nondescript building…
Wine is like Duct Tape, enough of either fixes everything!