At last Thursday evening’s Merlot event, we tasted six bottles – five from Napa Valley, all from California. While I can’t speak for the other folks present, it was apparent to me that all six could have breathed an hour before tasting them, as all seemed quite tart 10-15 minutes out of the bottle. Nevertheless, we took our time tasting.
I expect a velvety silkiness of body when I taste Merlots, but we didn’t find it in our combined selections. Most of these Merlots were fairly young, alcoholic, from the 2003 vintage, with minimal finish. Many of us had been advised on our purchases by our respective wine merchants, but I’ll have to say that for the $14-$26 price range we spanned, none fit the price. The least expensive wine was the group favorite.
It was kind of disappointing. Would I serve any of the following wines to my friends? Sadly, no.
Paired with our Merlot were a sweet baguette, a soft camembert cheese, and a delectable buttery gouda, which fortunately enhanced the taste of the wines.
About the wines
The wines listed below are ranked top-down, most favorite to least favorite; each is followed by the wine’s heat (alcohol content) and the price per 750ml bottle. In the left column is the actual group score for each wine using my handy-dandy Wine Scoring Sheet, which is based on the 20-point Davis scale. Below the group ranking, I’ve employed the scoring sheet to rank each wine individually.
|+3||2003 Robert Mondavi, Napa Valley, California||14.5%||$16|
|+1||2003 Burgess Cellars, Napa Valley, California||14.1%||$20|
|0||2001 St. Clement, Napa Valley, California||15.2%||$26|
|-1||2003 Whitehall Lane, Napa Valley, California||14.2%||$22|
|-1||2003 Clos La Chance Violet Crowned, San Martin, Central Coast, California||14.5%||$14|
|-2||2002 Atalon, Napa Valley, California||13.7%||$24|
|13.5 pts||2001 St. Clement, Napa Valley, California||15.2%||$26|
|12.5 pts||2003 Robert Mondavi, Napa Valley, California||14.5%||$16|
|12.5 pts||2003 Clos La Chance Violet Crowned, San Martin, Central Coast, California||14.5%||$14|
|12.5 pts||2003 Whitehall Lane, Napa Valley, California||14.2%||$22|
|11.5 pts||2002 Atalon, Napa Valley, California||13.7%||$24|
|11 pts||2003 Burgess Cellars, Napa Valley, California||14.1%||$20|
The St. Clement had garnered a Wine & Spirits ranking of 92 points. However, with its musty “bathroom sink” odors, it was off-putting for the group right away. While this wine grew on me, it took all evening, yet still did not significantly stand out from the rest to warrant purchase. The winner, based on consistency, was the Mondavi with its floral, vanilla, and tobacco notes; it did not score very high when scored individually, but it did not score any negatives in the group ranking. The Atalon was closest to offering the rich silkiness of better Merlots and would go best with chocolate; I detected leather and moderate heat in my purchase, the Whitehall Lane.