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Elizabeth Rose Merlot 2013
Blend: 97% Merlot, 3% Syrah
One of Napa Valley's most historic sub-appellations, Yountville spreads through some of the valley's ideal cooler sites and enjoys success with a handful of different and significant grape varieties.
This sub-AVA of Napa Valley is rich in the history that makes Napa Valley what it is today, and not just for red wines.
Moët & Chandon entered the California winemaking business via Yountville in 1973 with the establishment Domaine Chandon. Their goal has always been to produce top quality méthode champenoise sparkling wines.
Christian Moueix, originally responsible for managing Chateau Petrus and La Fleur-Petrus in Pomerol, arrived in Yountville in the early 1980s. He formed a partnership with Rohin Lail and Marcia Smith, inheritors of Napanook vineyard from their father John Daniel of Inglenook in Rutherford. In 1995 Moueix became sole owner of Napanook and chose the name Dominus, which today produces some of Napa’s highest scoring, age-worthy Bordeaux Blends.
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.