Merlot—one of the red grapes found in great Bordeaux wines and the grape of many highly touted vineyards of Napa, Sonoma, and Washington state—has gotten a bum rap of late. This is mainly due to inexpensive bulk merlots flowing out of California’s Central Valley and Southeast Australia. Those are simple and fruity, ready to drink when released, and have little or no age-ability. But this rich and complex grape produces world-class, enduring wines. Next time you are going to have a big California cabernet, take a step up to a good merlot. The price is comparable and most are approachable when they are at a younger age.
This month’s selections are available at South Lyndale Liquors, 5300 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-827-5811
Hope Estates 2001, Hunter Valley, Australia, $13.99
Rich garnet color and a spicy herbal nose. This wine has dark plum fruit with a little tartness. Full-bodied, with a long finish. A lot of bang for the buck.
Waterbrook 2000, Touchet, Washington, $18.99
This wine smells like sweet vanilla and Bing cherries. It’s delicious, with a rich dark-cherry flavor and a beautiful, silky finish. Try it on a cold winter night with a chocolate dessert for a winter warm-up.
Whitehall Lane Winery 1999, Napa Valley, $29.99
A wonderful combination of everything good about the other three wines on this page. This wine has a spicy nose of plum and nutmeg, and transitions to a ripe cherry taste and a little earth and fig in a long, gentle finish. Ready to drink now or within the next two years.
Château Armens 2000, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux, $35.99
This is a muscular wine: Blood red, with a big nose of earth, coffee, and anise. It demands to be drunk with food, and, while very robust now, will age nicely for up to a decade. A merlot for the cabernet lover.
Bill Coy runs Vintage U, which organizes wine tastings, classes, and events for corporate groups, wine enthusiasts, and the general public. Reach him at email@example.com.