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Merlot Fights Back

Robert Whitley on

Producers such as Duckhorn, Nickel & Nickel, St. Supery and Wolffer Estate on Long Island are true believers and make merlot for the ages. Aaron Pott, a prominent consulting winemaker in the Napa Valley, is a proponent of Right Bank blends similar to the wines he once made at the Saint-Emilion estate Troplong Mondot.

Pott's favored terroir is Carneros, and he loves nothing better than creating new blends from merlot and cab franc.

Your takeaway from merlot month, should you choose to sample the many examples of fine merlot being made today, is that when merlot is made from grapes planted in the right places and given the TLC a noble grape variety deserves, it is capable of standing its ground with the greatest red wines in the world.

For example, the Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard merlot that I reviewed recently is a monumental wine. Yes, it's pricy, at more than $100 a bottle, but that's a fraction of the cost of a bottle of Chateau Petrus or Cheval Blanc, two of the greats from the Bordeaux Right Bank.

And if you simply want a delicious everyday merlot at a modest price, the Estancia, Decoy or Kendall-Jackson at about $25 won't disappoint.

Revealing these truths is what Merlot Month is all about.

Tasting Notes


Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, Napa County ($24) -- Mumm's Brut Prestige has long been one of the most consistent of all California bubblies, and one of the best values around, too. The balance between fruit and acid is exquisite, and the mousse is soft and refreshing, all things that make this cuvee one of the finest non-vintage brut sparklers money can buy. The current release shows notes of lemon and pear, subtle richness and a long, persistent finish. Rating: 92.

Decoy 2018 Merlot, Sonoma County ($25) -- The Decoy wines, the second label of Duckhorn Vineyards, continue to be one of the great values in California wine. The 2018 merlot is as solid as it is affordable, showing notes of blueberry, plum and red currant, a subtle hint of wood spice and mellow tannins. Rating: 90.


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