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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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11 Items
  • Fisher Vineyards RCF Vineyard Merlot 2002 Front Label
    Fisher Vineyards RCF Vineyard Merlot 2002
    Merlot from Napa Valley, California
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      69 97
      69 97
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    • Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Merlot 2002 Front Label
      Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Merlot 2002
      Merlot from Napa Valley, California
      • WE92
      • WS91
      4.0 5 Ratings
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      Currently Unavailable $46.99
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      46 99
      46 99
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    • Del Dotto Merlot 2002  Front Label
      Del Dotto Merlot 2002
      Merlot from Napa Valley, California
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        44 97
        44 97
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      • Paul Hobbs Michael Black Vineyard Merlot 2002  Front Label
        Paul Hobbs Michael Black Vineyard Merlot 2002
        Merlot from Napa Valley, California
        • WS93
        • RP93
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        Currently Unavailable $79.97
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        79 97
        79 97
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      • Paloma Spring Mountain Merlot 2002 Front Label
        Paloma Spring Mountain Merlot 2002
        Merlot from Napa Valley, California
        • WE94
        • WS93
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        Currently Unavailable $79.97
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        79 97
        79 97
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      • Corte Riva Merlot (1.5 Liter Magnum) 2002 Front Label
        Corte Riva Merlot (1.5 Liter Magnum) 2002
        Merlot from Napa Valley, California
        • WS91
        0.0 0 Ratings
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        Currently Unavailable $61.97
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        61 97
        61 97
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      • Pahlmeyer Merlot 2002  Front Label
        Pahlmeyer Merlot 2002
        Merlot from Napa Valley, California
        • RP95
        • WS91
        0.0 0 Ratings
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        Currently Unavailable $104.97
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        104 97
        104 97
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      • Twomey Cellars by Silver Oak Merlot 2002  Front Label
        Twomey Cellars by Silver Oak Merlot 2002
        Merlot from Napa Valley, California
        • RP94
        3.9 8 Ratings
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        Currently Unavailable $64.99
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        64 99
        64 99
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      • Duckhorn Three Palms Merlot (1.5 Liter Magnum) 2002 Front Label
        Duckhorn Three Palms Merlot (1.5 Liter Magnum) 2002
        Merlot from Napa Valley, California
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          Currently Unavailable $159.97
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          159 97
          159 97
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        • Duckhorn Estate Grown Merlot (1.5 Liter Magnum) 2002
          Merlot from Napa Valley, California
          • W&S93
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          Currently Unavailable $119.97
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          119 97
          119 97
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        • Switchback Ridge Peterson Family Vineyard Merlot 2002 Front Label
          Switchback Ridge Peterson Family Vineyard Merlot 2002
          Merlot from Napa Valley, California
          • RP92
          • WS91
          0.0 0 Ratings
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          Currently Unavailable $59.98
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          59 98
          59 98
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