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California Merlot

Learn about California Merlot, common tasting notes, defining characteristics and more ...

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Today the fourth most widely planted red variety in the state, Merlot has much to offer. While it bears similarities to Cabernet Sauvignon (its half-sibling), it tends to be lower in both acidity and tannins, giving Merlot wines a mouthfeel that is often perceived as soft, round and plush. These qualities make it an ideal blending partner for Cabernet, the two complementing each other throughout.

Merlot arrived relatively late to the California wine scene. It wasn’t until the 1970’s when producers like Louis Martini, Sterling and Matanzas Creek—influenced by European Merlot blends—began crafting single varietal versions. These trend-setting bottles opened the eyes of others in the California wine scene and spurred increased plantings. From there, the variety’s lush drinkability led to a surge in popularity, then overplanting (some of it on unsuitable sites) and finally a backlash that was turbo-charged by the infamous 2004 film, Sideways. What most viewers didn't realize was that, as much as Miles derided the variety, the prized wine of his collection—a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc—is made from a blend of Merlot with Cabernet Franc.

Fine examples of California Merlot—either as a single varietal wine or as part of a blend—can be found from Napa Valley, Sonoma County, the Central Coast and most regions around the state. Merlot wines offer a ripe, sensual mouthful of plummy fruit, suggestions of mint, herbs and vanilla, all carried along by an approachable structure and often, a great potential for improving with age.

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  • Switchback Ridge Peterson Family Vineyard Merlot 2012 Front Label
    Switchback Ridge Peterson Family Vineyard Merlot 2012
    Merlot from Napa Valley, California
    • RP95
    • WS92
    • JS90
    0.0 0 Ratings
    Price per bottle
    Currently Unavailable $69.97
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    69 97
    69 97
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  • Pride Mountain Vineyards Merlot 2012 Front Label
    Pride Mountain Vineyards Merlot 2012
    Merlot from North Coast, California
    • WE91
    • RP90
    0.0 0 Ratings
    Price per bottle
    Currently Unavailable $57.99
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    57 99
    57 99
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  • Pahlmeyer Merlot 2012 Front Label
    Pahlmeyer Merlot 2012
    Merlot from Napa Valley, California
    • JS97
    • WS93
    • RP91
    4.3 6 Ratings
    Price per bottle
    Currently Unavailable $89.00
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    89
    89
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  • La Jota Howell Mountain Merlot 2012 Front Label
    La Jota Howell Mountain Merlot 2012
    Merlot from Napa Valley, California
    • RP92
    0.0 0 Ratings
    Price per bottle
    Currently Unavailable $99.99
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    99 99
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  • Robert Foley Vineyards Merlot 2012 Front Label
    Robert Foley Vineyards Merlot 2012
    Merlot from Napa Valley, California
    • WS93
    • RP93
    0.0 0 Ratings
    Price per bottle
    Currently Unavailable $59.97
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    59 97
    59 97
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  • Keenan Mailbox Vineyard Spring Mountain Reserve Merlot 2012  Front Label
    Keenan Mailbox Vineyard Spring Mountain Reserve Merlot 2012
    Merlot from Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, California
    • RP94
    0.0 0 Ratings
    Price per bottle
    Currently Unavailable $79.99
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    79 99
    79 99
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  • Beringer Howell Mountain Bancroft Ranch Merlot 2012 Front Label
    Beringer Howell Mountain Bancroft Ranch Merlot 2012
    Merlot from Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, California
    • WS92
    • RP90
    4.6 8 Ratings
    Price per bottle
    Currently Unavailable $59.99
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    75
    59 99
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