Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

A few words on Merlot

By Jessica Yadegaran
Friday, September 28th, 2007 at 10:48 am in Uncategorized.

For a while, I’ve been feeling much too feisty for Merlot. I’ve been reaching for peppery Syrahs and even kicky, wild roses to match my sentiments. Not the Mellow M.

In the past few weeks, however, I’ve had two gorgeous Merlots and am starting to change my tune. Let’s discuss — briefly — shall we?

The first is the 2003 Markham Vineyards Merlot ($22.50), which I enjoyed last night at the new Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Walnut Creek.

Incidentally, I was sandwiched between the chain’s wine director, Marion Jansen op de Haar, who recently moved to Napa, and Stephen Eliot, associate editor of the Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wines and the wine instructor at the California Culinary Academy.

It was a finely-tuned Merlot, I thought, with a lot of violet and blackberry in the nose that prepared me for a rich Cabernet. But spice, coffee and vanilla on the soft finish made me remember what I was drinking and did not overburden my salmon.

But the true star in my recent Merlot awakening is the 2004 Oak Knoll District Proprietary Red Wine (about $80) by Blackbird Vineyards, which I enjoyed weeks ago at the winery and again at home last week.

blackbird vineyards

Winemaker Sarah Gott is a star to me, recalling the best of Bordeaux’s Pomerol but tweaking it ever so slightly with her signature Cali style. I drink everything she makes, from her husband Joel’s wines to her stuff for Joseph Phelps. This particular Merlot is blended with a 5 percent dash of Cabernet Sauvignon. The cherries are black here, not bing, and the fruit is tinged with espresso.

It’s a seductive wine, and it’s good to be back.

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