Merlot, Is it on a Roll?

In 2004 Merlot suffered one of the most significant setbacks ever in the wine industry. Merlot was the target of a disparaging remark in the cult wine movie, “Sideways.” Before “Sideways,” jet setters could not get enough Merlot. Merlot was one of the most relished wines by the glass. “Oh, yes, I’ll have a Merlot, thank you very much.” Merlot sales went south because of “Sideways.”

Merlot wine
Merlot – On a roll or not?

So, is Merlot on the comeback trail? The Vintage Wine Tasters have been experimenting with Merlot wines over the last couple of weeks. We found five Merlot wines to recommend. Here they are.

Merlot Recommendations

2016 Markham Napa Valley Merlot

The 2016 Markham has many great qualities. The aroma jumps from the glass with dark cherry and other pleasures. This Merlot gives us a full palate of flavors, plus a generous finish. The price at the winery is $29. I purchased a half case of the 2016 Markham Merlot at the San Bruno Airport Costco for $15.99 a bottle. I hope they have plenty to last through the end of the year. It is a delicious wine. I rate it at 91 Points. Another plus for this wine is that it is age worthy. Keep some in your cellar for a few years.

2018 Bonterra California Merlot

Wine Enthusiast loves the Bonterra Merlot. They ranked it on their list of Top 100 Wines of 2020 at 75th place and at 91 Points. Total Wines carries this Merlot for just under $10 a bottle. The Bonterra Merlot is a medium-bodied and smooth-drinking wine. Its lighter style makes it an excellent cocktail wine. It is also food friendly, pairing well with many foods.  Chicken, pork and salmon are good choices with this Merlot. I say 89 Points.

2018 Alexander Valley Vineyards Merlot

Vintage Jim is a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon and found this Merlot to have the bold qualities he likes in a Cab. “This is not a wimpy Merlot. I love the big and complex flavors. The wine is $12 at Costco, and $23 at the winery’s online Website.”

2017 St. Francis Sonoma Merlot

St. Francis winery in the Sonoma Valley has a long tradition of making quality wines at consumer-friendly prices. This Merlot is one of those. If you are looking for a Merlot to stock for quests and entertaining, the St. Francis Merlot will undoubtedly delight you. It is one of those “Can’t go wrong wines.” The Merlot is at several stores, including BevMo, for $19.

2019 Tom Shula California Merlot

Bruce tasted several different Merlot wines, and the Tom Shula is his only recommendation. Bruce purchased this wine from Naked Wines. In a sense, naked Wines is a wine club where its members are Angel Investors in up-and-coming winemakers. “The Shula Merlot is medium bodied, fruity bold with a dash of spice. The wine has a great mouthfeel that lingers. There is a small amount of Cab Franc and Petit Verdot, and I think that adds to the complexity of the wine.” See more on Naked Wines.

Our overall impression of Merlot wines under $20 is that they are on the lighter side, without much depth or complexity. The above five wines are exceptions. What do you think about inexpensive Merlot wines?

About the Merlot Grape

Merlot ready for harvest
The Merlot Grape in the Napa Valley

Merlot is one the major Bordeaux grapes. In the St. Emillion and Pomerol areas of Bordeaux, Merlot is the main grape. Have you heard of Chateau Petrus? Chateau Petrus is 100% Merlot. The 2015 vintage is selling for around a mere $3600 plus a bottle.

Merlot is the third most-planted grape in the Napa Valley behind Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. The Merlot grape is also widely planted in the Sonoma Valley and the Alexander Valley appellations of Sonoma County.

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