Trefethen Merlot 2016
Delicious with duck, barbecued chicken, cherry-glazed pork tenderloin, tomato-based pastas and black olive and mushroom pizza. A dash of freshly ground black pepper over a dish creates a lovely combination.
Blend: 86% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Malbec.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
At once very ripe and lively with very attractive cherries and supple tannins that neatly fill out the full body, the finish smooth and long. Drink or hold.
Thick and leathery in black fruit, this perennial classic from the region has a depth of flavor and texture that is structured and full of grace. Blended with 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec, it shows toasty oak, clove and integrated tannins that soften in the glass.
As one of Napa’s coolest sub-appellations, the area begs for diversity among its vineyards. Merlot and Chardonnay firmly compete with Cabernet Sauvignon for a place here. Some of Napa’s best Zinfandels also come from the Oak Knoll District.
Situated far in Napa’s southern end, Oak Knoll receives a strong cooling influence from both the San Pablo Bay and the Pacific Coast’s evening fog and breezes. Summer days are warm but on average ten degrees cooler than in St. Helena farther north up the valley; summer nights are chilly. A long growing season promotes for leisurely ripening of grape berries, resulting in an impressive balance of sugars, phenols and acidity.
Notable producers include Trefethen, one of the appellation’s oldest wineries, Robert Biale, legendary Zinfandel producer and Lewis Cellars, a family-run, hands-on establishment.
An easy-going red variety with generous fruit and a supple texture, Merlot can be made into a range of styles from everyday-drinking to world-renowned and age-worthy. Merlot is the dominant variety in the best wines from Bordeaux’s Right Bank regions of St. Emilion and Pomerol where it is blended with Cabernet Franc. On the Left Bank in the Medoc, it plays a supporting role to Cabernet Sauvignon—in both cases resulting in some of the longest-lived and highest-quality wines in the world. Merlot also frequently shines on its own, particularly from California’s Napa Valley.
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.