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Red Diamond Merlot 2011
This is a soft and versatile style of Merlot that would pair well with foods like pork tacos or grilled tuna steaks. It will also make a great pairing for vegetarian dishes like grilled Portobello mushrooms or pasta with tomato sauce.
Since then, Red Diamond has released three additional wines: Chardonnay, Cabernet and Shiraz. Each wine exhibits enticing flavors truly representative of the grape varietal.
An important winegrowing state increasingly recognized for its high-quality reds and whites, Washington is just below California in production numbers but lags behind Oregon in popularity. This has recently begun to change as Washington’s wines continue to garner high praise from critics and consumers alike. Winemakers draw inspiration from the Napa Valley, Bordeaux, and the Rhône, but because it is such a young industry, even the very best bottles are still relatively affordable. Most viticulture takes place on the eastern side of the state—an arid desert in the rain shadow of the Cascade mountains. Irrigation is made possible by the Columbia River. Temperatures are extreme, with hot and dry summers and cold winters, during which frost can be a risk.
Washington’s wine industry was initially built on Merlot, which remains an important variety to this day, despite being overtaken in acreage planted by Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Bordeaux blends and Rhône blends are common, and red wines in general tend to have ripe fruit balanced with earthy flavors and a leaner structure than most Californian equivalents. In terms of white wine, Riesling is the state’s major success story, producing crisp, aromatic examples with plenty of stone fruit that range from bone dry to lusciously sweet. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc perform nicely here as well, and Viognier is beginning to pick up steam.
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. One simply needs to look to Bordeaux to understand Merlot's status as a noble variety. On the region’s Right Bank, it dominates in blends with Cabernet Franc, and on the Left Bank, 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 and Cabernet Franc.