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Substance Super Substance Northridge Merlot 2015
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The original thought was to be a one wine brand, with a single minded vision to produce the best value-priced Cabernet Sauvignon in America. How do you go about this? Traditional winemaking. Natural fermentations. Barrel-aging. Plus, bottling unfiltered and unfined. In essence, making the wines in small batch winemaking integrity, but doing so on a larger scale. The wine is black. The label definitively says, "This is Cabernet Sauvignon." With the CS, you know who made this wine: Charles Smith. There is also the single vineyard, single expression, Bordeaux varietals (ex: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) produced in very limited quantities. Let's not to forget, the single vineyard Loire-style Substance Sauvignon Blanc. Wines of Substance illustrates Charles’ philosophy of producing exceptional wines to be enjoyed by everyone around the globe.
Distinguished by a broad, south-exposed, uniform slope and landlocked by the Columbia River to its south and Saddle Mountains to its north, the Wahluke Slope AVA of Washington holds 15% of the total vine acreage of the state and takes its name from the Native American word for “watering place.”
Incidentally the Wahluke Slope AVA has one of the hottest and driest climates of the state so irrigation is not only essential, but also allows complete grower control of vine vigor. On top of its arid and warm environment, strong summer winds blow across this broad slope and ensure both smaller leaf size and grape clusters. The result is top quality wines with great concentration, phenolic ripeness, body and depth of flavor.
Vineyards cover the AVA from 425 to 1,480 feet along the slope. Its deep soils of wind-blown alluvium and sand with a depth, on average, of more than 5 feet along the continuous grade allow optimal drainage for the vines.
Merlots are rich in sweet, ripe cherry, red currant, raspberry and cocoa. Syrahs tend to express black and blue fruit along with savory notes. Wahluke Cabernets are rich in stewed red and black berries.
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.