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Frei Brothers Reserve Merlot 2015
Blend: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah
Frei didn't waste any precious time once he acquired the land. By 1895, he was producing 20,000 cases of high quality wine that was stored in huge redwood casks.
In spite of a devastating blight of phylloxera, by 1904 the winery had actually increased in size and production. Now in his seventies, Frei turned the business over to his two sons, Walter and Louis. In 1903, the winery was officially named Frei Bros.
The Frei Bros. Winery continued to grow over the years, in spite of disasters such as the one that occurred in 1919, when a curious piece of legislation that came to be known as Prohibition put many an American winery out of business.
Again, the Frei family persevered, and now you can taste the legacy of a great winemaking tradition in Frei Brothers Reserve, a new release that combines the spirit of old world winemaking techniques with grapes that are hand selected from some of Sonoma's finest vineyards.
A multifaceted and highly reputable sub-region of Sonoma, Dry Creek Valley is responsible for a wide range of wine styles—both red and white. One of the smallest AVAs in California, Dry Creek Valley has a winning combination of ideal geography and climate. Fertile, well-drained soils create concentrated varietal character while long, warm days, bookended by cool nights, allow grapes to reach full phenolic ripeness and balance. The warm and welcoming appellation is home to a number of family-owned vineyards and wineries that place a strong emphasis on sustainable farming practices.
Zinfandel reigns supreme here and still produces in a great number of very old vineyards—often 100 years old or older. These old vines create a powerful, voluptuous and sultry wine unlike those of any other region. Sauvignon Blanc, the valley’s signature white grape, also performs exceptionally well. Many other varieties grow comfortably here, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Syrah. Petite Sirah is often found in blends with Zinfandel.
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.