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15 January 2006

MERLOT

That's right; I said it.  Mer-effing-lot!  Gotta problem with that?

Seriously, though; reflecting on past voyages through galaxies of wine, I realize that Merlot, in its single-varietal form, is one grape, which I've woefully overlooked.  And no, it's not because of this or this.  I believe the cause is several off-putting trysts with mediocre & poor Merlot early in my wine experimenting life.  However, through no fault of Bordeaux's second fiddle, I never again really seriously considered exploring Merlot - neither in ten-dollar bottlings nor in its $50-and-up trophy case expression.  I simply overlooked it; even while visiting Long Island (perhaps home to the New World's next big push in pro-Merlot PR).

But then a couple things caught my eye over the course of a few weeks.  The Caveman, whose palate I plan on cloning in the near future, introduced Merlot (from California, no less) to one of his swanky holiday dinners.  In fact, the Neyers Merlot selection stood alongside some pretty impressive company: Vega Sicilia and Latour Haut Brion.  Around the same time, I was reading a piece by Maggie at the Wine Offensive and she mentioned that, "There is just something about Merlot and Northern Italy for me."  At this point, Merlot was thoroughly wedged into the back of my brain; gnawing away at my subconscious until, when at the wine shop, I noticed an unassuming bottle of Merlot from Northern Italy.  Before I realized what I was doing, I had placed a cheap (~$10) bottle of Merlot in my cart.  Something I couldn't have seen myself doing just weeks ago (and by the way, Neyers Merlot is next on my to-drink list).

The Skinny
Lavismerlot LaVis Merlot Trentino DOC 2003 ($10) [LaVis's site appears to be down.  More info can be found here at Omniwines]

  • Merlot from Italy's fun & odd Trentino-Alto Adige region (watch this space for more info on Trentino-A.A.)
  • Deep inky-maroon in color; fading to bright ruby near the rim
  • Deceptively complex scents - initially, I sniffed a bouquet of ripe red & black cherries, but more complexity followed.  I detected scents of violet and cola along with meaty notes
  • In the mouth, LaVis came across as medium-bodied, with nice crisp character and subtle rounded tannins.  The flavors were much more simple - mostly fruit, but still very enjoyable

***.5 (3.5 stars out of 5)

I would describe LaVis Merlot as a pure expression of Merlot character.  Thankfully it seemed to be spared any heavy-duty oak treatment.  Additionally, this wine rang in at 12.5% alcohol.  That meant that after two glasses, I wasn't ready for a nap (i.e. on a stormy Saturday night, a wine with 14-plus % alcohol would have made me become rapidly horizontal).

I enjoyed this wine with home-made medium heat buffalo chili.  It is also a fine candidate for Stephen's Jumbalaya calzone creation.

PS - join in the virtual wine-sharing fun with Vino Voyeur

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Comments

caveman Bill

La Vis is great... agreed.
I guess it's a grape that has be to be spanked to perform well... to much sun, heat and water make Merlot a dull boy (said with a Jack Nicholson Shining grin)..

And I promise to only upload hack photoshop efforts... part 2 is classic.

Easy,
CavemanBill

Bryan

I've been holding onto a bottle of Merlot from the Friuli region of Northern Italy (Conti Brandolini d'Adda Vistorta 2002) . I've heard very good things about Merlot's potential there. I've tried a Cab Franc that was delicious from the same area. Being in New York City, the Merlots on Long Island are a refreshing change from anything Californian.

shannon

I love how you describe the color. I need to get better at that. I just had the 02 Red Diamond Merlot from WA and it was better than Merlot's I've had in the past.

g58

Mmmm... That Brandolini Merlot was the highlight of my holiday dinner.
Thanks for turning me towards the Trentinos, and specifically to La Vis. They don't seem to get much play up here in Quebec but I'll be giving them a try very soon. I see that Michel Phaneuf writes that their wines are done in a style similar to the Loire Valley's, which also sounds refreshing.

beau

Bryan - let us know hoe your Friuli Merlot turns out.

Shannon - there are definitely some good wines (Merlot and other) to be found in WA. Got any other recommends?

g58 - I like the comparison with the Loire Valley. LaVis did seem to be 'straightforward' wine w/o many distractions thrown in. I feel that way about a number of Loire whites & Chinon.

shannon

I'll keep my eyes and nose open for good ones. I'm not a merlot fan but I plan on hitting the WA vineyards this summer with my husband.

Jameson

Merlot:

Falesco Montiano (1999 or 2001): It's about $45, but worth it. Great Italian Merlot.

I'm tough on WA wines, but find the 2001 Terra Blanca Estate Merlot from Red Mountain to be pretty impressive at about 13 bucks. It's not clown juice.

And Robert Keenan out of Napa. His 2001 Merlot is fantastic, around 30 bucks.

Giampiero alias Aristide

I agree with you, Beau.
Merlot of LaVis is a very nice wine.
LaVis has a high-quality line of wines also, named "Ritratti", from selected cru of Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and other local grapes.
The top of the line is absolutely - in my humble opinion - Ritratto Rosso IGT Vigneti delle Dolomiti, a cuvée from Teroldego and Lagrein (indigenous grapes). They make 35,000 bottles and I think you can find it in USA. More info here: http://www.la-vis.com/eng/index.php
Cheers.

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