Wine Talk

Snooth User: Drunk as a Skunk


Posted by Drunk as a Skunk, Oct 1, 2009.

Wanting to try my first Merlot. Any suggestion would be appreciated. Looking to start for $20 or under to start with. Thanks

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Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 1, 2009.

I don't know where you are located by I was surprised by this one:

Reply by wlstiles3, Oct 1, 2009.

I can suggest Red Diamond 07 and Duck Pond Cellars 04, both from Washington. Frankly, I have been hard pressed to find a bad Merlot from Washington. Some grapes were made for some places and Merlot and Washington go well together. Additionally, I find it is easier to find quality in Merlot under $20.

Enjoy and don't let the wine gurus tell you Merlot can't be high quality.

Reply by TL NJ, Oct 2, 2009.


Coincidentally, I just posted a reply to wlstiles note about merlot.

In my note I talked about Washington merlots. I have grown to prefer them over most of the merlots coming out of California, as its a variety that they take rather seriously.

In addition to what others may suggest to you, I would suggest you give some of these a try from Washington. The quality you get for the price you pay is quite surprising. At the $20 or less, I found the following to be excellent...

1. Columbia Crest
2. Covey Run
3. Chateau Ste. Michelle


Reply by GregT, Oct 3, 2009.

"Enjoy and don't let the wine gurus tell you Merlot can't be high quality."

Why would they say that if they're "wine gurus"? Also, there's no reason to think that California can't make good merlot. It is after all, a huge place. Too many to list but the Pahlmeyer merlot from 1994 or 1997 is simply spectacular and as good as any wine produced anywhere IMHO. Pride makes a good one every year. If you want to spend less, Whitehall Lane Reserve Merlot is usually very nice and only around $25 or so and in the same range is the merlot from Steltzner, which can be quite good and which ages nicely too.

There's a big difference between good and bad however, partly because merlot is just harder to make than cab sauvignon. So there's a lot of bad merlot around, just like there's a lot of bad pinot noir.

Columbia Crest, Chat St Michelle, Red Diamond, Snoqualmie, NorthStar, Stimson Estate Cellars, Domaine St Michelle, Conn Creek, and Villa Mt Eden are all owned by the same company which used to be called Stimson Lane but is now called Chateau St Michelle wines. And the first two especially have several different lines. THe basic Columbia Crest is never all that great although a lot of people seem to like it, but their Reserve bottling, which is only around $20, delivers a lot for the price. Also in Washington Januik is around that same price point.

Good luck and happy hunting!

Reply by Drunk as a Skunk, Oct 3, 2009.

Thanks for the advice everyone. Thanks Greg T for mentioning a lot of pinot noir out there. I tried one a couple weeks ago and couldn't understand all the rave. I actually didn't like it. Maybe I'll give it another try.

Reply by wlstiles3, Oct 5, 2009.


I was just making the point that Merlot has gotten a bad rap IMO. That people tend to shy away from Merlot for whatever reason and that there are some very good wines in this varietal.

By way of generalization, I find that Washington is a place where Merlot does well. That does not preclude quality from other locales.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 6, 2009.

I agree that merlot has gotten a bad rap. Washington does produce some of the better examples coming from the US. It will be interesting to put together a tasting with some examples, maybe I'll move that up in the rotation and get it done for the end of the month.

Reply by Wayno, Oct 6, 2009.

Speaking of great merlots, what about that Patrimo, put out by Feudi di San Gregorio. Absolutely marvelous. There are some other really good Italian merlots out there also.

Reply by lingprof, Oct 6, 2009.

I feel a little disloyal to CA jumping on the washington wagon ;-). But I had H3 Horse Heaven Hills Merlot, 2006 I think, by Columbia Crest and it was amazing. At $13 or so, I scooped up a bunch to have on hand.

Reply by lingprof, Oct 6, 2009.

Oh, one I loved from CA is Cameron Hughes Napa Valley Merlot, Lot 79, at about $12. That may be hard to find, but Cameron Hughes, if you can find them at Costco or whatever, has done some nice Merlots in the past.

Reply by chadrich, Oct 6, 2009.

There was a time (pre-Sideways) when Merlot had become the "generic" red restaurant wine, and was the standard order for customers who enjoyed a glass of wine but didn't really focus on it (ie. "I'll have a coke" = one of the cola products; "I'll have a glass of Merlot" = your house red wine). As a result, I think many (but certainly not all) producers evolved to making basic and economical but uninspired Merlots and many restaurants probably looked for the best deal that they could turn the highest mark-up on. So the cycle fed on itself. Most people posting on this forum would not have bought (or at least enjoyed) those wines.

A lot of those same restuarant diners now know they're "supposed to" dislike Merlot, even if they don't know why (this is Sideways working as a sort of viral marketing in reverse). So until the quality and quantity of Merlot that those producers are making comes back into equillibrium with current demand, there is a fair amount of less-than-stellar Merlot out there.

That said, there are many producers who always did and always will make good Merlot, and it's unfortunate that they also suffered by association through this process.

Whew, sorry didn't mean for that to be a rant, but maybe it was. And I'm not even in the business.

In terms of good Merlot, I recently had a 2003 Wente Reserve from Livermore that was quite good and retails around $18. On the higher side, Rubissow-Sargent makes a great example for around $40.

Reply by Drunk as a Skunk, Oct 6, 2009.

Covey Run Columbia Valley Merlot 2004. Quite nice, I'll have to try more wines from Washington State.

Reply by TL NJ, Oct 7, 2009.

I'm glad you liked it. Covey Run happens to be one of my favorite "go to" labels for merlot (and other varieties) - always pleases everyone at the table (from the "gurus" to the beginners), and is less than $15.

I completely agree with the others, there are some other very good merlots out there outside of WA. I dont know where you are from (seems like there are quite a few folks from NY here) - but I was surprised by some of the Merlots coming out of Long Island - some of the wineries on the North Fork do a great job with it.

But Washington still makes my favorite thus far.


Reply by GregT, Oct 7, 2009.

Drunk - pinot noir is one of the fashionable grapes. Not altogether because of the movie, although that helped, but because it's kind of a "geeky" wine grape. People can start drinking $8 wine and usually those will have a fairly obvious appeal. Then one day they'll have a more complex, mature wine and it will be a Burgundy or some other pinot noir and they have a little revelation. And it gets pretty expensive, which I think has a lot more to do with it because then people feel it must be really good. Then they can sniff and mumble about things like terroir, earth, transparency and all kinds of other things that make your ears bleed.

Sometimes you get a Burgundy that is damned good wine. More frequently you don't, because pinot noir is a hard grape to get just right. And that is true wherever it's grown, so I'm not surprised that you didn't like what you tried.

There are some producers in places like CA who ripen the hell out of it and make big, tarry and jammy wines that annoy the Burgundy drinkers. I don't much love those wines but I applaud the winemakers for making them, just because they can get the other guys so upset. I don't always believe in a middle ground, but somewhere between those big CA wines and the rare Burgundy that's just outstanding, there are some pretty good pinot noirs made. I don't think Oregon is the panacea for everything wrong with CA either, as I'm more often disappointed than impressed. But I encourage you to keep looking.

Same thing with merlot. It's planted in all kinds of places that really don't make sense. And it's a hard grape to get exactly right. So there is just a lot of forgettable or even bad merlot out there. If it's not ripe, it has a distinct note of green pepper or bell pepper. That's common to all the grapes in that family - cabernet fran, cab sauvignon, malbec, carmenere, sauvignon blanc, etc. But when it gets enough sunlight over the season and it isn't over ripe, it can produce very good and complex, age-worthy wines. Italy makes some pretty good merlot IMO. I've had a couple from Spain. France it it's home, but Hungary and Austria also produce good merlot and of course CA and WA.

In NY, the wines tend to be somewhat green and for my taste only in exceptional years are they anywhere near as good as some of the whites that the state produces. You wouldn't think so, because the state is mostly desert, but you can also get that green streak in WA.

So if you want to taste an interesting example, get the Pedestal by Long Shadows. It's made by Michel Roland in Washington. He's arguably the greatest merlot expert in the world, producing a number of wines in Bordeaux and elsewhere, and this is an example of his touch in WA. It's typical of his style too - very lush, ripe, soft, and forward. Some people find it obvious and fault him for producing wines like that, but that's a whole different thread.

Reply by Vignobles Boidron, Jul 27, 2010.


If you like Merlot try the Corbin Michotte Saint Emilion grand cru classé! 2005 at 23,10 Euros the bottle

very smoothy tanins (65% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon)

Let's have a look at it ;)


Reply by amour, Jul 27, 2010.

MARCUS JAMES and so good!

Reply by Andy53, Jul 29, 2010.

I’ve tried a few merlot red wines and I like the fruity taste. I love it.


Reply by lingprof, Jul 29, 2010.

I just had Franciscan Merlot (06) for the first time and really liked it.  The thing is, it tasted more like a Zin to me.  I would never have picked it as a merlot...  so is it a great merlot, or a failed merlot but a great something else?  ;-)

Reply by jcjrogers, Jul 29, 2010.

I recently had a Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve merlot at a wine and food pairing event.  Kendall Jackson is somewhat common, so I typically don't buy.  However, I was somewhat surprised by the merlot and would purchase again.  It is in your price range and should be easy to find.  I also like Chateau St. Michelle.  They make an aray of varietals, but I've never had one that I didn't like.  When someone asks me what wine they should buy, I often recommend Chateau St. Michelle because the quality is there for the money and again, you can't go wrong with any varietal.

Reply by amour, Jul 29, 2010.

You are correct, jcjrogers. Recently, I had cause to comment, that  in Miami, unless I am  are at the BILTMORE, or at hotels in that category, I simply cannot easily find a really great wine , to please my discriminating palate, especially by the glass.

But, you know what!!!

Out of evil commeth good!!

Forced to choose something and not ever frown or make a fuss, being socially graceful indeed, I make use of the opportunity to choose / taste something I would not deliberately order when I am on the other words something from the wine list at hand...just something.....


KENDALL JACKSON, of course...common, uninspiring, one may say....but a good mouthful of joy!

Not only KJ Vintner's Reserve but also others  from their wide range.

LAWYER  TURNED GREAT  WINE MAN....not bad at all!   ...CHEERS!

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