“No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!” This oft quoted line from Miles in the 2004 movie Sideways, single handedly sent Merlot (MARE-low) prices plummeting (while simultaneously causing a renewed interest in Pinot Noir). Now the Rodney Dangerfield of grapes, Merlot is striving to make a come back. At www.merlotwine.com Washington State is listed second, behind France, as premier Merlot growing areas.
Geeky fact: Merlot is the second most planted grape in the world (excluding cheap jug varietals Thompson Seedless and Airen)
Today’s review is a mash up, show down between three well known Washington producers. They represent Eastern, Central, and Western WA. Each was purchased at Costco for under a Jackson.
I added a twist to the challenge. The three wines were put head to head in a blind tasting. Although I knew which three wines I was tasting, I had no idea which wine was in which glass. Watch the video to see how the throw down showdown went down! Read below for the boring ol’ text.
2007 Woodhouse Family Kennedy Shah Merlot
- The Stuff: 80% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot 8% Malbec from Rattlesnake Hills $12 Retail – Woodinville, WA
- The Swirl: A dull purple- moderate legs. Slightly watery toward the edges
- The Sniff: Nutmeg and Cinnamon at first, then presenting some cigar box with blackberry fruit
- The Sip: The spice comes forward and says, “hi.” The fruit has left the building not to be seen. Mild tannins. The wine lacks structure and presents itself as a basic offering.
- The Score: At just $12, I will rate this a strong 3 and would potentially buy it again. For the price it is a solid offering and I’ve had much much worse.
2007 Arbor Crest Merlot
- The Stuff: 100% Merlot from four unlisted Columbia Valley vineyards; $18 Retail – Spokane, WA
- The Swirl: Bright dark purple color but not quite as dark as plum, good structure to the edges
- The Sniff: Strong acidic or alcohol smell then smoke and blackberry (or dark berry fruit)
- The Sip: Thin on the front end then smokey in the middle. The alcohol made it slightly hot and the juice offered medium tannins.
- The Score: At $18, I can only score this a 3. At this price there are better offerings to enjoy. I would not buy this again, but I wouldn’t shy away from it if offered at a party or on a restaurant menu.
2007 Barnard Griffin Merlot
- The Stuff: 100% Merlot from Columbia Valley and the Wahluke Slope. $17 Retail – Richland, WA
- The Swirl: Darker than the Arbor Crest bordering on plum color
- The Sniff: Well hello, berry, it’s nice to meet you. A sour cherry (in a good way) with a hint of vanilla.
- The Sip: While it came across disappointing in the video, it did open up as the night went on. Slightly challenging palate with some chalkiness and earth leading to a smooth vanilla finish. The berries came out after about an hour in the glass.
- The Score: At $17 I would score this a 3+. The wine had much more structure and interest to it than the other two offerings. This bottle was purchased for just $13 making it a very good value.
None of these wines were superstars. The goal of the review is to provide you some insight for when you see these available at restaurants or at the store. No one wanted to jump forward and declare victory. Taking price, taste, intrigue, and aroma into consideration, this round of WA Merlot Mash-up goes to Barnard Griffin.