God knows I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Merlot. I’m pretty much there with Miles from “Sideways“. When I hear “Merlot”, I think a bit of cherry fruit, bland, vanilla and pretty much nothing else. There’s a lot of that floating around this province, produced here and elsewhere, that fit that description perfectly.
Here’s how I happened to pick this bottle up at Marquis Wine Cellars the other night. I was headed out for a long road cycling workout the next day and hadn’t soaked up much iron in my diet in the last week, so I thought a steak would be a great choice for dinner. With that in my mind, I headed into Marquis and was looking for the classic steak pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon. While scanning the Cali section, my eyes landed on this bottle. 2001. From Mayacamas. A Merlot, I know, but I was thinking a Mayacamas Merlot should fit the bill quite nicely.
I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call this an Old World style New World wine, but I guess I will. It’s got a funky edge to it that most California producers seemingly try to avoid. Instead of a manipulated and polished vanilla-ness, this wine tastes of the grapes and that’s good thing. Its colour is a dark brick-ish red that doesn’t show any age-driven mellowing around the edges. The nose is an intriguing mix of black olives, tea, plum and dark cherry.
The flavours? Wow. The flavours amplify the slightly bitter edge of the dark cherry and finish off with tea-edged dark plum. The finish goes on for minutes. I had it with that steak and experienced one of those happy food-wine moments I wanted to last and last.
If you want to try an old-school California approach to Merlot that won’t have you longing for less oak and more flavour, give this a try.