Through All the Bad-Mouthing, Merlot Still Makes a Great Wine

It’s the grape that takes the brunt of all the bad jokes about wine – culminating in that famous line from Sideways when Miles proclaims: “I’m not drinking any fuckin’ Merlot” … they say that movie single-handedly brought the sale of California Pinot Noir up and tanked those of Merlot. But don’t be so ready to count out Merlot just yet. It remains in the top five of consumed grape varieties and is one of the most recognizable as well. Soft, juicy, easy drinking – all are terms used to describe Merlot, and that suits Merlot just fine – and many wine drinkers as well.

This is week two in a month-long lovefest the LCBO is having with California and we’ll take a look at the much maligned but always enjoyable Merlot wines that will be part of this promotion.  This week, I have three in my bag of tricks that you might like, starting with Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi 2011 Merlot ($12.95 – #494492)… first things first, it’s one dollar off until April 1, making the wine a bargain at $11.95 … you’ll find plenty of black and red fruit with a touch of cinnamon onthe nose and that all follows onto the palate with lots of juicy fruit and a touch of spice… this is uncomplicated, which is how many like their Merlots to be; but be careful not to buy too much of it because it is sealed under plastic and plastic has a tendency not to be very age-friendly (***½). You’ll find this wine in the general list section.

You’ll also find my next selection in the general list racks: Sterling 2009 Vintner’s Merlot ($15.95 – #622837); this one’s got a little more stuffing than the Mondavi with cherry, blueberry, plum, nice texture and tannins on the palate with a slight spice on the finish… you’ll also find an unmistakable whiff of chocolate on the nose – if that doesn’t get you to dive right in, nothing will. This again can be described as easy drinking (***½+).

The other two wines are fairly young and fresh (one more so than the other), but if you just pony up a buck-five more you’ll pick up one of the best-value Merlot’s I have tried in quite some time: Sebastiani 2007 Merlot ($17 – #219162)… already six years old, this wine is ripe and ready for drinking, yet could also find a hiding place in your cellar for the next five years or so. The nose is spiced blueberry and cocoa-dominant; the palate has a good handle on the tannins along with spice, dark brambly-type fruit, spiced blueberries and spiced raspberries… there’s just so much going on in here it’s worth picking up a few bottles to have on hand this BBQ season and maybe the next two or three (****). Yes, you guessed it, it’s another easy drinking Merlot, but it also shows what Merlot can do if given time to develop.


Robert Mondavi 2011 Merlot – $12.95, #494492 (***½ = good)

Sterling 2009 Vintner’s Merlot – $15.95, #622837 (***½ = good+)

Sebastiani 2007 Merlot – $17, #219162 (**** = very good)