LearnAboutWine: Revenge of the Merlot

Revenge of the Merlot Industry Panel

Lately, I’ve been getting into wine more. For me, merlot has not been my favorite. For reds, I love pinot noir, syrah and even cabernets more than merlot. I was hoping by attending the industry panel and tasting sponsored by LearnAboutWine would open my eyes.

There were 7 glasses of merlot in front of me but there were tables and tables of more bottles all around us at Elevate Lounge to try after the panel. How am I going to make it through it all? Well, carefully. I would take the tiniest sip, consider it and then took a few more throughout the panel.

The following are all merlots from Napa and Sonoma valleys with the exception of one from Chile.

Gundlach Bundschu, Sonoma, 2006- this one smelled beautifully in the glass but initially was not my favorite. It took a few sips for the flavors to become distinct for me. It was very complex.

Newton, Napa Valley, 2005- This was the most expensive bottle we tasted ($60, versus the average retail of $30 for the others). Yet, if we’re going by price-point, I wasn’t intrigued. It was very much like a merlot to me.

Silverado, Napa Valley, [missing year]- Available at Whole Foods, this wine had a lot of herbal notes for me.

Swanson, Napa Valley, 2005- Apparently this winery is next to Opus One and is quite the industry favorite. The winemaker, Chris Phelps, emphasized how much merlot did well in clay soil.  It did smell very earthy to me.

Montes Alpha, Chile, 2007- Imported by TCIC Imports, we tasted this Chilean merlot. My first thought it smelled very good. It’s very drinkable.

Cakebread Cellars, Napa Valley, 2007- This one appealed to me because it was lighter.  I realize this may not be helpful to others but I prefer less earthy, “dirty” wines. I suppose this is why I dig pinots.

Matanzas Creek, Sonoma, 2006- Another favorite of the group. I really enjoyed hearing about how winemakers were moving away from “reserves” and changing names to some sort of proprietary name rather than calling the wine “merlot” such as Matanzas Creek’s Journey wine.

Apparently there was some backlash from the movie Sideways and there was some discussion on how winemakers tried to overcome the “merlot problem.” By using a proprietary name helps. Bottles of Journey retails for $100!

After the panel, we were free to taste the many other wines. I tried everything from more merlot to merlot prosecco (yes, a prosecco blended with merlot) to lovely whites and different reds.

IGT Veneto Merlot Prosecco Rosé Giol

This is definitely a wine for the patio. A nice summer wine.


There was a buzz around many wineries in attendance but Newton brought a ’91 Merlot which I had an opportunity to taste. Oh wow. The funk! The smell was almost overwhelming. I can see why everyone was so excited. Me? Earthy. No, not even just earthy. It was licking dirt. Okay, maybe no one is going to respect me for not liking it but can we say I’ve got a young palate? Moving…on…now.


Which brings me to my favorite wines I tasted last week. COHO brought a pinot noir, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. I loved all of them. They just kept getting better with each sip but surprisingly, I really did like the merlot.

Revenge of the Merlot, indeed.

For more pictures from the event, visit my flickr page.