Merlot varietals have not fared well in the U.S. wine drinking circles over the past few decades, so more American winemakers are moving towards merlot-based blends…..just like the French have been doing for hundreds of years. (As with French Fries/frites and Napoleon pastries, sometimes the French come up with darn good gastronomical ideas.) Merlot is an excellent blending wine and the winemakers at Chateau St. Michelle have emulated their French cousin (Michel?) and used it to great advantage in their 2011 Red Blend.
Just to be clear, this isn’t a “Bordeaux blend”. It is mostly merlot and syrah, with some malbec, grenache and cab sauv to balance it out. We’d call this an “easy drinking” wine – as good on its own as it is with food. It is best described as medium bodied, balanced and fruit forward red table wine. Lots of fruit notes, with an emphasis on blackberry and black cherry with just enough vanilla/oak to give it some depth. The finish is dry and lingers nicely with very smooth tannins. It could be paired with many foods but we thought it was a great burger wine…..if such thing exists. If not, perhaps that category needs to be created. Who is with us on that? (probably not the French).
Here in the U.S., Columbia Crest and Milbrandt have been producing some very decent value merlots. This one compares favorably to those, but at a slightly higher price point. Costco’s price is low, but not a bargain-basement steal; most other retailers offer this wine for about $15. But with a good burger….or just about anything else…..you can’t go wrong with this wine.
Price at Costco: $13.99