Matt Walker

Location: Northridge, CA

I am a Certified Specialist of Wine and uncertified Wine Geek! As a Snoother, I hope to raise awareness for smaller, lesser-known but quality driver producers. Major regions I specialize in include Washington, California, Tuscany, Bordeaux, and the Douro

Wines Less Traveled : Merlot

Poor old Merlot.  It recieved such a blow thanks to Sideways which is surprising in a lot of ways, not least of which was that it was only one chuckle worthy line a in movie only tenuously about wine.  I guess it just demonstrates the power of film and media. 

Let's face it though, Merlot, at least truck loads of California Merlot had it coming.  Inocuous fruit bombs lacking any sort of nuance, structure, acidity, or balance and left with not a small amount of residual sugar drowned the shelves of liquor stores, super markets, and even dedicated wine shops.  It became everyone's beginner's red.  Something to let you get your feet wet before moving on to bigger and better wines.  People forgot Merlot's history as one of the two most important red grapes of Bordeaux and the top grape for St. Emilion and Pomerol.  We forgot that merlot could be big and bold without losing it's silky, sumptous side. 

Thankfully, oenophiles are starting to remember how great Merlot could be and producers are as well, especially those up in Washington where Merlot is truly thriving.  Merlot's the comeback kid of the new decade, even if, for some, it never really left.

Rank Wine Rating Price
1 Monticello Vineyards Estate Grown Oak Knoll District Merlot (2007)
Comments: This Merlot from the cooler Oak Knoll part of Napa Valley harkens back to old school Napa as well as ye olde world France. Exquisitely balanced, the wine shows focused rays of black cherry and red currants counterpointed by espresso and cocoa powder and kept lithe and lively by that great cool weather acidity.
Previously available for $34.00
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2 Château Arnauton Red Bordeaux Blend Fronsac (2009)
Comments: I thought this wine was a great buy and it kept me coming back to the glass for more. It has that "I may be young but I've got serious spunk" attitude of many of the more reasonably priced '09s. The wine had been decanting for a few hours and it showed nice depth of fruit, great structure and a nice velvety texture. Lots of black cherries and currents, touches of chocolate, pepper and herbs. Nice finish.
Average price: $19.99 from 55 stores
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3 Kestrel Falcon Series Yakima Valley Merlot (2008)
Comments: Washington and merlot really do go hand in hand. Kestrel is putting out a lot of solid wines in the $20 range and this one is no exception. Significant but silky smooth tannins support a lovely array of red and black fruits, plus baking cocoa, tobacco leaf and cedarwood.
Previously available for $19.99
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4 Bevan Cellars Merlot Oakville Alexis' Cuvée Showket Vineyards (2008)
Comments: I would put this wine on the short list of best merlots out there today. Deep, unctuous texture, explosive blackberry fruit, whispers of vanilla oak, oh and I think someone might of thrown a bar of high quality dark chocolate into the barrel while no one was looking because there's chocolate and more chocolate in this wine. Absolutely wonderful!
Average price: $199.99 from 3 stores
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5 Bridgman W.B. Merlot Yakima Valley (2008)
Comments: A very nice little Merlot and a decent intro to Washington-style Merlots. Dark red fruits, hints of cocoa and firm tannins. All in all a decent wine made much better for being under $15
Average price: $13.99 from 1 store
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  • 191129Buzzard Breath several worthy of Top Ten consideration.


  • 1062644Wisequeen Donna Jackson the overoaked merlot produced in California, surely didnt help, but merlot produced in south africa by great winemakers and more recently in Piemonte Italy too, makes me happy.



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