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3 Girls Merlot 2011
Positioned between the San Francisco Bay and the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the Lodi appellation, while relatively far inland, is able to maintain a classic Mediterranean climate featuring warm, sunny days and cool evenings. This is because the appellation is uniquely situated at the end of the Sacramento River Delta, which brings chilly, afternoon “delta breezes” to the area during the growing season.
Lodi is a premier source of 100+ year old ancient Zinfandel vineyards—some dating back as far as 1888! With low yields of small berries, these heritage vines produce complex and bold wines, concentrated in rich and voluptuous, dark fruit.
But Lodi doesn’t just produce Zinfandel; in fact, the appellation produces high quality wines from over 100 different grape varieties. Among them are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc as well as some of California's more rare and unique grapes. Lodi is recognized as an ideal spot for growing Spanish varieties like Albarino and Tempranillo, Portugese varieties—namely Touriga Nacional—as well as many German, Italian and French varieties.
Soil types vary widely among Lodi’s seven sub-appellations (Cosumnes River, Alta Mesa, Deer Creek Hills, Borden Ranch, Jahant, Clements Hills and Mokelumne River). The eastern hills are clay-based and rocky and in the west, along the Mokelumne and Cosumnes Rivers, sandy and mineral-heavy soils support the majority of Lodi’s century-old own-rooted Zinfandel vineyards. Unique to Lodi are pink Rocklin-Jahant loam soils, mainly found in the Jahant sub-appellation.
An easy-going red variety with generous fruit and a supple texture, Merlot’s subtle tannins make it perfect for early drinking and allow it to pair with a wide range of foods. But the grape also has enough stuffing to make serious, world-renowned wines. One simply needs to look to Bordeaux to understand Merlot's status as a noble variety. On the region’s Right Bank, in St. Emilion and Pomerol, it dominates in blends with Cabernet Franc. On the Left Bank in the Medoc, it plays a supporting role to (and helps soften) Cabernet Sauvignon—in both cases resulting in some of the longest-lived and highest-quality wines in the world. They are often emulated elsewhere in Bordeaux-style blends, particularly in California’s Napa Valley, where Merlot also frequently shines on its own.
In the Glass
Merlot is known for its soft, silky texture and approachable flavors of ripe plum, red and black cherry and raspberry. In a cool climate, you may find earthier notes alongside dried herbs, tobacco and tar, while Merlot from warmer regions is generally more straightforward and fruit-focused.
Lamb with Merlot is an ideal match—the sweetness of the meat picks up on the sweet fruit flavors of the wine to create a harmonious balance. Merlot’s gentle tannins allow for a hint of spice and its medium weight and bright acidity permit the possibilities of simple pizza or pasta with red sauce—overall, an extremely versatile food wine.
Since the release of the 2004 film Sideways, Merlot's repuation has taken a big hit, and more than a decade later has yet to fully recover, though it is on its way. What many 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.