“Fad—noun—a temporary fashion, notion, or manner of conduct, etc., especially one followed enthusiastically by a group.” I dare say I don’t generally follow wine fads; yet, I do have my own fads of wine that I seem to follow…usually against the crowd instead of with it. Yes, I fell in love with Pinot Noir, but it was not because of the 2004 movie Sideways, even though that was the time period when my love affair started. Pinot Noir was my style of wine for quite a period of time (and I still love--and crave--a good Pinot Noir). Then I moved to a different fad: Cabernet Sauvignon. Then my next wine craze was to taste anything different I could get my hands on, and the more unique the better. Because of this trend, I learned that I also loved Malbecs, Tempranillos, and, most recently, Merlots. Just as the aforementioned movie Sideways didn’t make me drink Pinot Noirs, it did not make me steer clear of Merlots; however, the rest of the country and world can’t necessarily say the same. It was reported that from October 2004 until January 2005, Pinot Noir sales in the U.S. jumped 16%; in California alone sales jumped 34%. At this same time, Merlot sales dropped 2%. This trend was similar in other wine consuming countries like the United Kingdom, as well. Merlot has seemed to bounce back from its slight drop in consumer sales; it has also stayed in my favor as a wine I like to sip when I can find quality samples. This is what caused me to open my fridge yesterday and realize I had three Merlots at one time: two already opened and one just received from a wine club shipment. I knew what I must do with these wines: have a coast-to-coast faceoff tasting of Merlot.
Wine one—Dr. Konstanstin Frank 2010 Merlot (Finger Lakes Region, New York)
Sight: a lighter bodied, slightly translucent garnet color—very pretty. Smell: the ten months oak aging was evident from the smoke and cedar aromas; there was also ripe fruit. Sip: chocolate covered cherries with the cedar taste; smooth with a nice balance between the acids and the tannins. An overall great example of a cooler climate Merlot.
Wine two—Balistreri Vineyards 2011 Little Feet Merlot (Colorado)
Sight: slightly heavier bodied, with an opaque, inky maroon color. This wine undergoes no fining or filtering, and it shows in the deep color. Smell: the smell is like sticking my nose in a juniper wreath. Very much an evergreen forest! Sip: the evergreen, juniper forest continues in the taste. The overpowering green is all I get on the first attack. There is a bit of a hot taste of alcohol, though the wine is not overly high in alcohol. It has a very pleasant, mixed berry finish. I love the premise of the creation of this wine. Children at the Colorado Festival Italiano stomp the Colorado-sourced Merlot grapes that are fermented for this wine.
Wine three—Columbia Crest 2008 Horse Heaven Hills (H3) Merlot (Washington)
Sight: medium-bodied, opaque garnet color. Smell: sweet floral, almost perfume like fragrance, hint of vanilla. Sip: oak, earth, leather, and green pepper with slight fruit. Smells fruitier than it tastes. A well balanced, fairly traditional Merlot. With a price under $15.00, depending on where it is purchased, a great value!
The “Winner” of the Latest Wine Trend: Coast-to-Coast Merlot Tasting
My favorite wine was the Dr. Konstantin Frank. I loved the aromas and the flavors. It is a wonderful sipping wine. My two-ounce pour just was not enough; I wanted more! I tried not to be biased by the fact that I recently visited the Finger Lakes and Dr. Frank’s winery, and loved both. Having said that, the 2008 Horse Heaven Hills was a wonderful Merlot, and if I thought about price, this would definitely be the better wine for the money, as it is sold for under $15.00 and the Dr. Frank retails for closer to $20.00. Ranking the Little Feet Merlot as my third choice does not mean this is a bad wine—quite the contrary. When drinking it in direct comparison with the other two wines, it was a little too green for me and seemed less balanced. However, I will say that when I visited Balistreri Vineyards this fall, the Little Feet was my favorite wine of the 20 wines I tasted from the winery. It is a less traditional style Merlot than the other two, but still worth buying a bottle to enjoy…especially if you knew some of the “little feet” used to produce the wine!
Yes, styles, fads, and fashions come and go, in clothing and in wine. Though movies like Sideways may create trends in wine, I hope you will all keep tasting to create your own wine fads! And when you do find wines you like, taste them, test them, and compare them; it is a great way to expand the palette and decide what styles you like…from east to west, you will find what you like best. (Wow, I just sounded a bit like Dr. Suess J…after he had a glass of Merlot!)