Wine Talk

Snooth User: Lucha Vino

Sonoma Merlot - Is this the usual?

Posted by Lucha Vino, Apr 4, 2011.

I'm not sure what to expect from a Sonoma County Merlot.  This Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve did not really meet my expectations.  Is this a typical Sonoma Merlot?


Reply by napagirl68, Apr 4, 2011.

Vello... I am chiming in, but will be of little help.  i dislike most CA merlots... but found that I love St. Emilion blends, which are primarily merlot. 

One CA merlot I do tolerate well is Georis out of Carmel Valley, CA.  They are known for their Merlots, and many love them...

BTW.. Kendall-Jackson, regardless of varietal, would prolly never meet or even approach remotely my expectations. :-)

Reply by Lucha Vino, Apr 4, 2011.

I hear you NG.  I was pretty disappointed, especially with something that has "Grand Reserve" in the name.

Reply by dmcker, Apr 4, 2011.

"BTW.. Kendall-Jackson, regardless of varietal, would prolly never meet or even approach remotely my expectations. :-)"

NG was being more generous than I would've been. I wouldn't use them as an example of how any varietal should be produced and presented. Ever. No way, no how...
Reply by outthere, Apr 4, 2011.

Thank you NG and dmcker. Took the words right out of my mouth.

Reply by GregT, Apr 4, 2011.

Velo - don't forget "reserve" and "gran reserve" have no meaning at all in the US wine market.  KJ's best-selling Chardonnay was their reserve Chard if I'm not mistaken.  But was there any other? 

Same in places like Argentina, Chile, etc.  So your "reserve" bottling may be your cheapest and worst wine - it's all about marketing. 

In New York the "Supreme Court" is the court of first jurisdiction. If you want to go higher, you go to the NY Court of Appeals.  Makes perfect sense right?  "Supreme" means the top.

I'm not as down on KJ as some, but then again, I can't remember ever buying one of their wines with my money.  The times I've tried their wines tho, they weren't unspeakably bad, just not stuff I'd want to have around the house for the most part.

And BTW - "variety" refers to the grape, like Merlot, Chardonnay, etc.   "Varietal" means it's sold by variety as opposed to the region.  So you sell Merlot as a varietal wine and Bordeaux as a regional or appellation wine.  But Merlot isn't a varietal, it's a variety.

Just my rant for the day.  I went to work and someone had sent me an email speaking of a way "to solution our needs."

WTF could that possibly mean?  We use the infinitive form of a noun???

The destruction of the English language continues apace. 


Reply by dmcker, Apr 4, 2011.

Technical terms are a breed apart. Personally I have no problem with 'varietal' since 'variety' (without adding 'of grape') can refer to so many other things. I haven't checked OED or equivalent on this, but my guess is that usage is so heavy in this direction that it has become the defacto correct technical term by now (or maybe you'll show me something that'll make me eat my words?).  This is a case where a twist from what was formerly proper can lead to greater clarity, and more efficient communication. Grafting language, as it were, not just the vines.

I'll agree with you on the unacceptability of nouns where verbs should be used, though. ;-)

Reply by GregT, Apr 5, 2011.

Grafting language! 

It's a great concept  - we do that when we borrow foreign words or "re-purpose" existing words like "spam", thereby allowing us to create the brilliant "spamhaus".

"Re-purpose" is an example of a satisfactory coinage though.  It's clumsy but it's clear and there's no other single word that I can think of offhand to mean exactly the same thing, other than "utilize" which poor writers today use in place of "use".  I asked a guy on my staff why he used it and he said it made his writing seem more educated and literate.  "No," I explained, it made it seem like he was trying to make it seem that way, and that's a lost cause.

BTW - the guy who came up with that horrific torture of English has several degrees and speaks very well.  Something happens when he puts fingers to keyboard tho.

But I digress - "variety" is a perfectly serviceable word.

Here's from the Oxford Companion to Wine (not the OED)

But here is a compilation of dictionaries and their takes on the terms.

BTW - thanks for making me check.  I mentioned the OED to someone a few days ago and was met with the blankest stare imaginable.  He'd never heard of it.

Oh, and back to Merlot - I like it.

Reply by VegasOenophile, Apr 6, 2011.

I happen to enjoy BR Cohn's merlot, Benziger makes a fair merlot, Kaz, and there are more.  Just drink around and perhaps grab some lesser known "names" and see how you like them.  KJ isn't a good benchmark to use in my opinion.  There are good, solid ones out there. 

Reply by dmcker, Apr 6, 2011.

Well, (not surprisingly) not really enough to make me eat my words. I'll stand by 'varietal' both for the grape and its resulting wine. It's simpler and clearer and shorter, IMHO.

But then I tend to pull the hyphens out and make two words into one, and do all sorts of other streamlining, faster than the OED. Hey, what do I know (other than the fact that I made a fair living for a few years out of both Tokyo and New York, as both a creative director and a copywriter, back when I didn't have any gray hairs)? ;-)

I'm ready to go back and forth on this for awhile, but we might put others to sleep. I'm game if you are, though...


Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 7, 2011.

Much as I hate the destruction of my native tongue (I still don't use "impact" where "affect" would work, or any other time as a participle except with respect to wisdom teeth, and I cringe at "repurpose" as a verb--did you ever hear "purpose" as a verb?), I am guilty of calling grape varieties varietals.  Just didn't think of it much.  "Varietal wine": correct. But "variety" would work fine.  And it's already there.  But I am not going to cringe when D uses "varietal."  I think it's a technical term, and dmcker's argument for clarity, combined with my recognition that language can't be completely unchanging, might even allow me to slip back into the usage.  How's that for not taking sides? If D and GregT want to start a thread on this, I'll follow it.

But back to the OP: I agree with NG about Cali merlot vs. St. Emillion and Pomerol merlot-based blends.  Decisions about where to plant and how to vinify the grape in California are probably responsible.  And, honestly, in the big scheme of things, I don't put Bord merlot on the top of my list--I'll take a great Cal cab or a French cab-dominant Bord blend before a merlot of any type. 

That said, in the same price range as your KJ, you should be able to get a Murphy Goode merlot from Alexander Valley in Sonoma.  I just opened a 2003 that I was given, expecting very little, and I was very pleased.  It still had a backbone, while being round and approachable in the way merlot is.  The fruit was still singing--plums, a little blackberry. 

KJ is available and that's about all I can say for it.  "Reserve" has no meaning in the US, as GT pointed out.  I'd stay away from Clos du Bois as well, as they are in the same category. Bizarrely enough, the Jackson family now owns Murphy Goode, but the winemaker has stayed on.  Can't say the bottle I had will be representative, since it was pretty old and predates the Jackson acquisition.

Reply by JonDerry, Apr 7, 2011.

It's probably correct, but i've very rarely heard the term "variety" used in wine discussions.  Could be because people think "varietal" makes them sound smarter.

Reply by dmcker, Apr 7, 2011.

Had some good Murphy Goode bottles back in the mid '90s. Not recently. What does that say about takeovers? Hardly anything unique.

Foxall, have you had any of the ridiculously expensive yet still quite good bigboys from the Right Bank in Bordeaux? If somehow price can be left aside (like when someone gifts you), I've had some very impressive experiences. I've drunk more from the Left Bank but stopped dissin the right more than 25 years ago....


Reply by napagirl68, Apr 8, 2011.

murphy goode was very solid back in circa 1995-96... haven't tasted since I am not a CA merlot fan by rule.

As to the language issue... here's one for you that gets on my nerves...  sitting in a meeting, someone is trying to say that there is potential in an idea or activity.  Says, "I think there is some low hanging fruit there".  I HATE, absolutely DETEST, that expression, and it makes me want to pull off this individual's own, personal, low hanging fruit!!

Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 8, 2011.

I am absolutely NOT hating on right bank merlot--I like it, but not as much as I like cab based wine.  Haven't had Ausone or Cheval Blanc (which is probably life changing, since it's also half cab franc or more), but I have had some very good Clos L'Eglise from that side, and some others.  I would just, as a rule, take a high quality cab based wine first.  Not dissing it--but I am dissing almost all Cali merlot.  Still, that MG proved it can be done well.

Reply by Lucha Vino, Apr 8, 2011.

So interesting to see where this thread went in a week.  One of my pet peeve terms is "Poster Child" used to refer to an example of something good or bad.

And I sympathize with NG on "Low Hanging Fruit" - quite annoying!

Reply by dmcker, Apr 10, 2011.

I tend to use LHF in a pejorative sense to describe when someone went for something that looked easy, but actually may end up being wormeaten, and wasn't anyway as good as what true effort would've produced.

NG, I'm not letting you near me with pruning shears in your hand....

Reply by WVTIM, Apr 11, 2011.

Fieldstone makes a good Merlot, they tweek it with some shiraz.  I have been pouring in my restaurant for nearly 3 years and everyone enjoys.

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