Guide to Merlot.

I'll take all three, please.
I’ll take all three, please.

Ever notice that my Monday posts are about alcohol? Perhaps it’s because I’m fresh off a weekend of partying (not really), that I really don’t want to go back to the office (maybe), or that I just have a drinking problem (perhaps), in general.

Eh, who really cares? Last week, I was super jealous of someone I’m following on SnapChat because she was in Temecula, California. Let me just explain that Temecula has a special, special place in my heart: 1. it is beautiful, and 2. it is some to some exquisite vineyards and wineries that produce delicious, godly nectar.

Over the years, I’ve taken several wine classes, worked at different bars and restaurants, and been lucky enough to travel to many wineries. I’ve learned a lot about wine, and I’ve also met lots of people who have the hardest time buying a bottle for themselves or ordering a glass at a nice restaurant.

So, you may recall my “Bubbly Basics” at the end of 2014, but don’t be surprised if you see more wine guides ’round these parts. I’d love to drop some knowledge bombs, in the form of wine barrels!

Merlot is one of my favorite varietals, so I chose that to get us started. It’s also something you’ll see on many restaurant wine lists and even in grocery store aisles. No need to splurge here, you can get a fantastic bottle of this stuff for under $10. Let’s get this Merlot Monday going!

Oh, yeah.
Oh, yeah.

What the heck is Merlot?

Merlot is the second-most popular varietal in the United States, right behind Cabernet Sauvignon. It thrives in most climates, which may be why it’s so popular (aside from it being delicious), but it’s known widely in France, Northern Italy, and the warmer regions of Switzerland. In America, Merlot grows well in Northern California and Oregon.

The cool thing about Merlot is that, instead of having a specific flavor, it’s more well-known for it’s smooth, velvety texture. It’s often used to mix in with other varietals, such as Bordeaux and Cabernet. Why? It’s got a thick skin and can mellow out the strong tannins in other varietals. This is what makes Merlot so, so easy to sip.

How do I buy/order the right Merlot?

Merlot is a bit of a chameleon when it comes to flavors, and those flavors really depend on the region where it was grown. So,  when shopping or looking at a menu, pay attention to the location on the label or under the wine name on the wine list. Cooler climates produce one set of flavors while warmer locations create another flavor profile.

Cooler Climate: France, Italy, Chile

  • Licorice, tar, roasted, red, dry, anise, charcoal, mineral,

Warm Climate: California, Argentina, Australia

  • Mocha, cherry, juicy, raspberry, spicy, cocoa, silky, vanilla

What are some delicious Merlots to try?

L’Ecole No. 41 2012 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Merlot, Oregon ($36)

Made in Washington with grapes from Oregon, its black-plum flavors have a subtle bottom note of cocoa.

I'll tap that.
I’ll tap that.

Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2011 Reserve Merlot ($19)

Concentrated aromas and flavors of cherry, raspberry and chocolate are layered with notes of cinnamon and vanilla on the mid palate. The subtle and soft finish lingers with toasted oak.

Sebastiani 2010 Merlot, Sonoma County ($18)

Balanced, elegant, fruit forward but not overly ripe, this is an elegant wine with noticeable tannins and great cherry notes.

Concha y Toro ‘Marques de Casa Concha’ 2012 Merlot, Peumo, Chile ($16)

Aged 17 months is French oak barrels and is noted for its smokiness in scent and taste. It also has notable flavors of cherries, plums, licorice, and dark chocolate.

…And there you have it! Next time you need a little Merlot in your life, hopefully you’ll have a little direction and can treat yourself to something delicious. I hope y’all have a great Monday – see you back here tomorrow!

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