Tag Archives: Merlot

Tasting Note: Lone Oak Merlot

A very nice place in the south-center of Michigan near the town of Jackson.  They do prix fixe music dinners on Saturday evenings with some top-name acts.  All of their fruit is estate-grown, and they supply grapes to some of the other new wineries in this part of the state.  I had this wine about a week ago with steak, braised leeks, and risotto.

Lone Oak Merlot (2012) Michigan – $22

Color: purple, quite dark.

Aroma: black plums, nutmeg, oak, pepper, licorice,

Taste: plums up front, then some cherry notes on the mid-palate, and pepper on the finish.  The finish is quite long.   Great tannins – drink it now if you like your reds muscular, cellar for another 3-5 years and it will soften up.



Tasting Note: Karma Vista Karisma

One of the first wineries I visited in the Lake Michigan Shore appellation, which is in southwestern Michigan between the Indiana border and Grand Rapids.  Karma Vista does great things with Syrah – this wine is a blend of 2/3 Merlot and 1/3 Syrah for a softer feel.

Karma Vista Karisma (2011) Lake Michigan Shore, Michigan – $20

Color: quite dark purple-black.

Aroma: a chewy, brambley nose with tar, licorice, and black fruit notes.

Taste: quite tannic, with plums, bing cherry, and spice.  Needs air!  Has some hard-candy notes as it opens up.

Big and quite tasty – the fruit quality in this is top-notch.  Recommended!


Wine Tasting Report – Frei Brothers at Kroger Austin Landing

The mega-Kroger has been open in Austin Landing for about a year, but this was my first chance to attend one of their wine tastings. They really go all-out on Friday, with some very impressive hot appetizers and dinner options from the kitchen. And they have a full on-premise license, so you can open any bottle on the shelf if the tasting flight doesn’t appeal to you!

This week they sample Frei Brothers wine from California, and I had the roast vegetable flatbread and the Tuscan-style poached corvina.  The wines were a mixed bag, but the Merlot stood out positively.

Frei Brothers Chardonnay (2012) Russian River Valley – $17

Color: very bright yellow,

Aroma: predominately apple, with some toast and vanilla underneath.

Taste: high acid for a Chardonnay; the apple carries into the midpalate, but then oak dominates from there to the finish.  Decent enough, but not really noteworthy.

Frei Brothers Pinot Noir (2011) Russian River Valley – $23

Color: quite dark for Pinot; I suspect there may be something else blended in.

Aroma: cherry and oak, with some forest-floor and earth.

Taste: quite full-bodied and almost jammy. This is not really varietally correct, so I’m almost certain they threw in 15% or so of Zin or Syrah to plump it up. Disappointing, actually.

Frei Brothers Merlot (2012) Sonoma County – $20

Color: garnet red

Aroma: very inviting spiciness.

Taste: round, dark, full, with a big dollop of fruit throughout. This is nice stuff, darker and heavier than a typical California Merlot. On the finish, the acidity you expect finally makes its appearance. I think this is the star of the tasting.

Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon (2011) Alexander Valley – $20

Color: very dark purple.

Aroma: mostly earth notes, with some cassis and blueberry.

Taste: this is thinner in the mouth than what you expect. The Merlot is actually bigger than the Cab – this bottle is disappointing.

Drinking Tonight: Tempranillo-Merlot

Just a light dinner of salad and cheese this evening, and I’ve popped open a recent Spanish acquisition. This is a ‘new-wave’ blend, as it combines Spain’s most noble grape, Tempranillo, with the international Merlot variety. The proportion are 70% Tempranillo and 30% Merlot, and it’s been aged in oak barrels for 12 months.

Abancay Crianza (2009) Cariñena, Spain – $9

Photo0269Color: purple verging on reddish-purple, and quite dense. About the darkest Tempranillo I’ve seen.

Aroma: intriguing – I think I get more of the Tempranillo fruit and dusty/oaky notes, but there are some hints of blueberry underneath from the Merlot.

Taste: considerably softer and easier-drinking than I was expecting – interesting! Predominate tastes are cherry, dried cherry, blueberry, and a moderate amount of oak towards the finish.

I like the blend, as the Merlot softens and rounds off the Tempranillo, which can be quite stiff and imposing. This is versatile, and I think it would make a great wine for tailgating or a holiday party. Recommended!


Drinking Tonight: Trader Joe’s Coastal Merlot

This is one of the flagship private labels at TJ’s, part of a line from the Central Coast region of California. These are dependable, cool-climate wines that are priced in the $6 range. I’m having this with vegetable pizza tonight.

Trader Joe’s Coastal Merlot (2011) Central Coast, California – $6

Photo0258Color: nice plummy purple.

Aroma: a decent combination of cherry, plum, and berry fruit.

Taste: a nice style – moderated acidity, good fruit, a hint of smokiness, and just enough tannin on the finish. Excellent quality for the price, especially when you consider the gallons and gallons of overly-tart Merlots from California. Recommended.

Winetasting Report: Kroger Centerville

I met up with Rick and Ralph for a quick tasting at Kroger in Centerville. A fair-to-middling tasting, with the star being the Merlot from Chile.

Franciscan Chardonnay (2011) Napa Valley, California – $20

Clean and crisp, with light to medium oak. The oak comes through more in the texture than in the taste. An oaky Chardonnay that’s well made – this isn’t fat, flabby, or hot

Photo0249Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Merlot (2009) Colchagua Valley, Chile – $20

Very dark in country, and it has a big nose – chocolate and cherry. Tart and tannic, with more cocoa on the palate. Textbook Chilean Merlot (this includes 15% Carmenere), with a big, chewy mouthfeel and some heat and earth towards the finish. After it opens up a bit, the tannins are pleasantly dusty.

Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Syrah (2008) Cachapoal Valley, Chile – $28

In case you’re wondering, Cachapoal is a subdivision of the Rapel Valley that was recently delineated. This has some meatiness on the nose, and is also extremely dark. It’s a little weak on the palate, however. It promises a lot up front but doesn’t quite deliver.

St. Francis Cabernet Sauvignon (2009) Sonoma County, California – $20

This is not particularly dark or fruit-forward for a California Cab. It has more red fruit (raspberry, cherry, red currant) than black fruit. A little tight as well. A sub-par wine for St. Francis.

BV BeauRouge (2009) Napa Valley, California – $30

This has everything but the kitchen sink in it – Merlot, Cab, Zin, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, Carignan, and Touriga Nacional! It gives a big tannic punch up front, and then the earthy/smoky grapes (Zin, Petite Sirah, Carignan, Touriga) dominate in the mouth. It falls off quickly, however. Not worth the money, unfortunately.

Drinking Tonight: Trader Joe’s Viñas Chilenas Merlot

A cheap TJ Merlot from Chile’s Central Valley.  This is the 2012 vintage, purchased for $4.70. I’m having this with some warm goat cheese, and then a simple green salad.

Photo0232Color: quite dark reddish-purple. Good Chilean Merlots have that cool-climate color and can be fully extracted without overdoing the alcohol. Very promising.

Aroma: blueberry, blackberry, dark cherry, and a hint of bramble.

Taste: a great bottle for under $5! This has plenty of fruit, good structure and depth, enough tannin for food, a touch of oak, and a nice motion of flavors across the tongue. It’s also not too acidic, which is the number one fault of most domestic Merlots.

Recommended! I’ll probably sock away a case in the cellar for fall and winter drinking.  I think this would go well with roasted root vegetables and cous-cous, lean grilled beef, or lamb.