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Monday, September 06, 2010

Knox Will Drink *!#$ing Merlot

Unlike Paul Giamatti's character, Miles, from Alexander Payne's brilliant wine-soaked film Sideways, whose disdain for the Merlot grape bubbles to a boil while hollering at his best friend Jack for the mere suggestion of drinking this well-known red wine at a dinner party ("If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving.  I am NOT drinking any *!#$ing Merlot!!!"), Knox has always enjoyed a glass of Merlot from time to time. That's not to say that it's my favourite - far from it - and while Merlots can be downright delicious, they can also be as bland as a mouthful of Regina ditchwater on a hot July day.

Over the course of the summer, I've had the chance to try a few decent Merlots and thought I would share them with you in case you find yourself with a hankering for this now, post-Sideways, underrated grape. Here is a sampling:

1) Sumac Ridge - Black Sage Vineyard Merlot (2006) - Okanagan Valley (Oliver, B.C.)

As anyone who reads the Shotgun knows, I am rarely thrilled by Canadian wines.  This one is no exception.  However, it is a decent wine.  Especially for a Canadian Merlot.  The good folks at Sumac Ridge do not have a stunner here, but they have put together an interesting wine with a very good, albeit oaky finish, but one that takes FOREVER to develop.  At first taste, I thought this wine was another pleasant, albeit dull Canadian wine with understated fruit and little separating it from the pack.  Twenty seconds later though, a very nice, velvety fruit taste came to the surface.  While not the greatest Merlot to ever hit my palate, this one is worth a try.  At $19.99 a bottle, you can afford a flyer, right?

2) Tin Roof Cellars - Merlot (2006) - California (North & Central Coasts)

Here you have a pleasant "drink with anything and everything" Merlot that glides along the palate and beckons to be guzzled.  Nice berry flavours, with a balanced presentation.  A Wine Enthusiast "Best Buy" in 2009 apparently and a medal winner at several wine competitions.  That stuff never impresses me much as it is kind of like how everything in Vegas is the "best of" something to someone it seems and is all just meaningless commercial tripe.  With the Tin Roof Merlot though, it may be warranted.  Again, not the world's finest, but a nice bottle for a late summer night by the backyard fire pit or on the Prairies after a day of bird hunting.  A splash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel provide some depth and a price tag of around $15 makes this one easy on the green. 

3) Wing Canyon - Lolita Merlot (2005) - Mt. Veeder, California

Now here is one of my favorite Merlots on the planet, from one of my favorite wineries and one of my favorites winemakers, Bill Jenkins.  This tiny estate winery on Napa Valley's Mt. Veeder has been pumping out great estate cabernets (sauvignon and franc) and chardonnay under the radar in the utter seclusion of their treed winery site for quite a few years now.  Their Lolita Merlot is a plush, velvety wine. Soft and creamy with delectable fruit and a dynamite label, designed by Bill's wife, Kathy.  This one's a little pricer around $25-$35 in most Canadian wine stores, but it is well worth the investment.  You can find this one at J. Webb wine merchants and Richmond Hills wines in Calgary, if you find yourself there.

There you have it.  End of summer Merlots.  To quote Miles' friend Jack "no going to the dark side". 

Posted by Knox Harrington on September 6, 2010 in Food and Drink | Permalink


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