Mission Codename: Time Traveller
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Sleuth out an exceptional Sonoma County Merlot for our thirsty Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Charles Creek Cellars
Wine Subject: 2004 Pasatiempo Sonoma County, Carneros Merlot
Winemaker: Kerry Damskey
Backgrounder: Any true fan or red wine knows that, worldwide, Merlot is a serious and well-respected wine varietal. It is the most widely grown grape in the Bordeaux region of France and, in America, Merlot soared to popularity in the 1990s. And for good reason; Merlot, when done correctly, can be incredible, as is the case with today’s serious offering from Charles Creek Cellars. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report immediately following to learn more about this wine – and why Merlot still rocks!
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Inky garnet to ruby with a dark heart of black plum, this wine has a tight surface, shimmering pink edges and medium legs that run down the glass at different speeds (this last one a unique characteristic!)
Smell – Lushly layered with deep and rich aromas of plum, dark cherry, cedar shavings, dusky blackberry and mild spice
Feel – Great mouth-feel, wonderfully round and slick (not oily) with an initial wetness that is fast replaced by medium tannins and an all-over-mouth coating effect that I love
Taste – A small explosion of flavors, with dark ripe stonefruit, dark cherry, mild cigar box and fresh/mild mixed salad herbs
Finish – Cool and fresh, then slightly drying and airy with flavors that taper off slowly
Conclusion – This is a very special and Superior Merlot that gives off a real sense of place, of passion and of personality. I love when a wine tasting becomes a wine experience where you connect with all of the magical elements that make up a wine. I’m sorry of this sounds a tad ethereal, but indulge me, please. Sipping this wine transports me… to the land where the grapes are grown… and are tenderly cared for by growers… where the winemaker measures and inspects the grapes daily… until they achieve perfect ripeness and are picked, sorted and crushed… the juice then meticulously fermented and aged… until the wine is ready for bottling and more aging… and then the wine reaches me and is poured into my glass – whereupon I breath deeply and sip… And then encourage you to experience this for yourself!
Okay, this isn’t my usual mission report; it’s more of a history/rant on Merlot. Here goes:
Despite what Hollywood may tell you, Merlot is a serious grape that is used to make some very serious wines. Sure, there are Supermarket Merlots that I would only serve to a
counter intelligence agent, but you would never buy those, now would you?
Merlot is a grape with a rich history in France and in the United States where the wine soared in popularity, becoming the #1 wine in the U.S.
Merlot sales did take a small hit in 2004 when an onscreen character in the movie, Sideways, declared Merlot to be oh so uncool.
Do we allow Hollywood to direct our tastes in wine?
Are we so shallow, America?
Ironically, the movie’s main character’s displays his most prized bottle of wine, a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc, which is a blend of Merlot!
Today, Merlot is back and growing steadily. This, thanks to wines like todays stupendous offering from Charles Creek Vineyards in California’s Sonoma County. They make the sort of Old World meets New Merlot that serious lovers of the varietal will appreciate.
The first recorded mention of Merlot was in France in 1784. The word Merlot is non-standard French and means Young Blackbird; the name coming either from the black color of the berries or from the Blackbirds’ fondness for these grapes.
Today, Merlot wines are produced primarily in France, Italy and the U.S., where it accounts for nearly 13% of all single-varietal wines sold. The only single-varietal that sells better is Cabernet Sauvignon.
When comparing Merlot against Cabernet Sauvignon, we find a few important differences: First, Merlot can often have more lush mouth-feel, which can be attributed to the wines lower acidity. Second, ages more quickly in the bottle, making it a better drinkers wine than a collectors wine like Cab. Third, Merlot ripens weeks earlier than Cab, making it a prime indicator of Cab ripeness and giving the grower and winemaker a heads-up that harvest looms. Some winemakers argue that without Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon may not be able to thrive.
Increasingly, I am becoming a huge fan of Merlot. When a winery turns out a masterpiece, as Charles Creek did with this wine, its easy to tell why.
So, while you are enjoying this remarkable Merlot, repeat the mantra, _Just say no, to supermarket Merlot….”