Wine Reviews: California Merlot

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-22-2016

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down with a handful of Merlots for a tasting. These selections make for a great re-entry. Some of these wines are quite expensive, full-bodied, oaky and packed with fruit, but I can’t deny the beauty of poise of the Pahlmeter, Mt. Brave, and La Jota Merlots from Napa.

Apparently October is “Merlot Month” — one of those ubiquitous months marketers ascribe to a certain grape variety, region, etc. But it means I’ve been receiving some really solid Merlot samples, so I’m fine with it.

Go Merlot!

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single blind (except for the Goldschmidt, which was received late and tasted sighted).

Review: 2013 Pahlmeyer Merlot - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $85
Deep purple color. Gobs of complex fruit on the nose: black cherries, saucy currants and blackberry jam, backed up by cedar, menthol, mint, vanilla and magic marker. Extracted and deep with velvety but structured tannins and medium-low acidity. Deep black cherries, blackberries and blueberry pie along with black licorice, mocha, vanilla, menthol and charcoal. A hard-punching style but very, very good. Will show better after a few years in the cellar, and continue to improve for quite some time, but it’s delicious to taste in its hedonistic youth. Aged 20 months in French oak (includes 4% Cab Sauv and 1% Petit Verdot). (93 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Rombauer Vineyards Merlot - California, Napa, Carneros
SRP: $35
Juicy purple color. Smells vibrant yet dark, with a mix of black cherries, plums and red and black currant, along with notes of clove, cedar, coffee, and some violets and earthy elements. Full-bodied with velvety tannins, although they provide some structure, and medium-low acidity. Black cherries, red plums, juicy currants, the fruit is mixed with cola, coffee, roasted chestnut, earth and violet notes. Smooth, velvety and delicious. Fine to drink now or hold for a few years, easy. Includes 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 17 months in 30% new French oak. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $54
Deep purple color. Aromas of saucy black cherries and tart red and black currants, along with violets, coffee, loamy soil and licorice. Full but juicy with a fleshy tannic approach and some moderate acid that helps keep it balanced. Black cherries, tart currants, the fruit is deep and juicy but also tart. Some mint, vanilla, smoky oak, cedar, but also some earthy and graphite notes. Shows well right out of the bottle but could unfold nicely in the near term. Includes 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, this wine is aged 15 months in 25% new French oak. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Mt. Brave Merlot - California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
SRP: $75
Vibrant purple color. Smells dark and loamy, with black cherries, juicy currants, warm mulling spices, lots of earthy complexity. On the palate, a concentrated and voluptuous wine, good grip from the tannins, medium acidity. Flavors of dark currants and waves of black cherry — some vanilla, clove, dark roast coffee but plenty of dark earthy notes, hints of savory spice. Oak is evident but woven in well and not dominant. A bold and saucy wine, but beautiful through and through. If drinking soon, decant vociferously, but I’d love to taste this in four to six years. Includes 5% Malbec, this is aged 19 months in 85% new French oak. (92 points IJB)

Review: 2013 La Jota Merlot - California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
SRP: $85
Deep black cherry color. Smells of juicy black cherries, black currants, mixed with violets, vanilla, a hint of tobacco – concentrated aromas that need lots of air. Full-bodied with velvety tannins and some moderate acid, it’s mouth-filling but feels precise on the palate. Tart currants mix with roasted plum and jammy black cherries – but a really interesting streak of green herbs and savory spices. Underlying complexities of minerals, crushed rocks and pencil shavings. Concentrated and young, but very, very pretty. This should be a stunner in 2020 or so. Includes a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, this is aged 19 months in 80% new French oak. (93 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Goldschmidt Vineyard Merlot Chelsea Goldschmidt - California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $18
Juicy ruby color. Pretty aromatics of tart red and black currants, some lighter toned strawberry notes, and some roses, eucalyptus, tobacco. Full-bodied but wrapped in velvety tannins, some moderate acidity, a big and juicy wine. Black cherries and tart blueberry fruit, bold but stays fresh, the fruit is backed by cedar, eucalyptus, tobacco, mint and notes of vanilla coffee. Ready to drink but should improve for a few years. All Merlot aged 12 months in a mix of new and used French, American and Hungarian oak. (87 points IJB)

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