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Sunday, 10 March 2019 19:44

Wine Pick of the Week

2015 Merlot

Sunday, 25 March 2018 18:04

Lamb for Easter and Passover

By Dan Clarke

It’s the opinion of Taste California Travel and its sister publication, Taste Washington Travel, that lamb is appropriate fare any time of the year.

Sunday, 11 June 2017 19:58

Wine Pick of the Week

Corbett Canyon Merlot Picmonkey

NV Merlot (non vintage)


Corbett Canyon


Alcohol: 12.5%

Suggested Retail: $10?

Tuesday, 25 April 2017 22:21

Wine Pick of the Week

Dry Creek Vnyd 2014 Merlot bottle Picmonkey

2014 Merlot


Dry Creek Vineyard

Dry Creek Valley

Alcohol: 14.5%

Suggested Retail: $26

Saturday, 21 January 2017 19:53

Wine Pick of the Week

Woodbridge cabernet merlot Picmonkey

2014 Cabernet Merlot


Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi


Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $15.75* 1.5L

Saturday, 14 January 2017 18:32

January 13, 2017 Wine Pick of the Week

Hedges HIP Merlot 2013 Picmonkey

2013 HIP Merlot


Hedges Family Estate

Columbia Valley

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $17.99*

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 11:20

October 7, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

Dry Creek Vnyd 2013 Merlot Picmonkey

2013 Merlot


Dry Creek Vineyard

Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma Co.)

Alcohol: 14.5%

Suggested Retail: $26

Friday, 18 March 2016 23:42

March 18, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

CSM cre mer nv 1400 store Picmonkey

2012 Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot


Chateau Ste Michelle

Horse Heaven Hills (Washington)

Alcohol: 14.5%

Suggested Retail: $36


“Merlot is one of the many wine varieties that the State of Washington does well. Wine writer Dan Berger—California-based, but internationally known—had a recent column to that effect and we certainly concur. He suggested that quality Washington Merlot was undervalued. We agree with that opinion, too.

“The state’s wine industry has enjoyed robust growth in recent years—currently there are over 890 wineries and Chateau Ste Michelle is by far the most significant of these operations. They’ve pretty much been around since the beginning and have garnered a reputation for providing quality wines at all price points.

Sunday, 18 October 2015 19:32

October 16, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Stimson Lane Merlot



Stimson Estate Cellars

Washington State

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $11 (1.5 L)


“Merlot is sometimes described as a wine for people who would like Cabernet Sauvignon--if only it were a bit lighter. That’s an oversimplification, of course, and some Merlot can be quite substantial—big and powerful, though maybe in an elegant way.

“The Merlot grape has its roots in Bordeaux, where it is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. However, In Pomerol it is the predominant grape variety and it also plays a major role in the wines from adjacent St. Emilion. Top French examples of this variety can be very pricey. Chateau Petrus, perhaps the ultimate cult-wine, has soared to absurd levels (try getting a bottle these days for less than $2,000).

Friday, 18 September 2015 18:37

September 18, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

2012 Beringer Bancroft Ranch Merlot Picmonkey2012 Bancroft Ranch Merlot


Beringer Vineyards

Howell Mountain

Alcohol: 15.2%

Suggested Retail: $105


“Merlot is viewed by some as merely Cabernet Sauvignon Lite. While that reputation might be deserved for some examples in the $10-$20 range, it certainly doesn’t apply in this case. The 2012 vintage of Beringer’s Bancroft Ranch does contain small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon (6%) and Cabernet Franc (8%), but the balance is all Merlot. The wine takes its personality from that grape and there’s nothing insufficient about it.

“Bancroft Ranch Merlot qualifies as a Napa Valley wine, but there are several sub-appellations within that definition, Howell Mountain, located just east of the City of St. Helena, being one of them. The Bancroft vineyard is situated at 1800 feet elevation. Conditions are different there. When the Valley floor is still waiting for morning summer fogs to recede toward the Bay, Howell Mountain vineyards are bathed in sunlight. Yet it can be colder, too. It’s not unknown to experience a dusting of winter snow. While there are wonderful Napa Valley Merlot vineyards at lower elevations (Three Palms being a prime example), it’s an article of faith for most winemakers that mountain-grown grapes have an intensity about them not found in their lower-elevation cousins.

"The power of this week’s wine can be attributed not just to the grapes, but also to the winemaking style.  Grapes are allowed a long “hang time” to develop full flavors and picking at this higher level of ripeness  begets higher alcohol levels in the bottled wine. Sixteen months barrel aging in new French oak barrels adds to the complexity.

“Blackberries, blueberries and plums are evidenced in both the aromas and the flavors of this wine (“in the nose and on the palate,” as the saying goes). Also present, though subtle, are aspects of anise (licorice), tobacco and leather (though in the nose, not the mouth). This wine is hugely flavorful and there’s no tell-tale heat to betray its high alcohol content. Power and elegance are usually mutually exclusive. Bancroft Ranch Merlot narrows that gap.”

Food Affinity: “The 2012 Bancroft Merlot is a special wine and deserves a special meal to show it off. A vegetarian would probably have a suggestion in that vein, but we’d be inclined to prepare beef or lamb. Maybe prime rib or a prime-grade filet mignon? Alternatively, a medium-rare rack of lamb would also do justice to this Merlot.”

Editor’s note: We think any wine fetching $100 a bottle could be considered expensive. However, a single bottle of the 2012 vintage of Château Petrus, France’s most celebrated Merlot, will set you back $2,000 or more. There are degrees of expensive.

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