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Bonterra Vineyards Merlot 2001

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"Merlot is for people who don't like red wine," Bob Bartlett, the late former publisher of the Wall Street Journal, is said to have remarked. A recent wine-heavy film featured a character who refused steadfastly to drink Merlot. Of course, these are both extreme views; it's a varietal with a rich tradition that goes back quite some time. Much of the prejudice against Merlot comes from its comparatively simple nature, maturity early, and lacking the acidity, color, and tannins of the more complex reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon.

About a year ago, I came across such a bottle, Bonterra Vineyards Merlot 2001 from Mendocino County, California. Aged in French oak barrels, the wine struck me as relatively complex for a Merlot.

Surprisingly spicy on the nose, the wine was gentle on the palate as expected, with soft berry flavors. This is a good example of how blending can bring together the best features of several varietals; though predominantly a Merlot (77%), the wine has also Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and Syrah (8%). The year 2001 was particularly good for this wine, with weather favoring Merlot, allowing it to mature on the vine. It paired wonderfully with dinner: a delicious pork tenderloin with a Dijon mustard-based sauce, served with broccoli.

My advice, as always, is not to allow yourself to be scared off by what you might have been told by supposed “experts.” Try many wines, try them alone and with different kinds of food (and company!), and keep track of what you like. Over time, you'll develop a knack for picking a bottle that will make a welcome addition to a pleasurable evening with food, drink, and friends.

Created by cmcurtin
Last modified 2006-09-18 07:56 AM
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