Chateau Julien 2009 Monterey Merlot

This one is for PJ.

See, when I was a snot-nosed know-it-all in college, I had a bad experience with Merlot. I took that bad experience with that one bottle to mean that *all* Merlot sucked – so much so that when Sideways managed to damage Merlot sales for years with one throwaway line,* I was proud of myself for already hating Merlot as though I had any idea what I was talking about.**

Then, roughly 10 months ago, I had a bottle of Emmolo Merlot, and discovered that I don’t hate all Merlot. Apparently I like relatively pricey Merlot quite a bit. Even after the Emmolo, however, I thought I still hated cheap Merlot – like my sudden affection for one not-cheap bottle (two, actually: the L’Ecole 31 Merlot is bloody beautiful as well) meant that the only Merlot worth drinking was Merlot I couldn’t normally afford.

Turns out I was wrong again. I don’t hate cheap Merlot either. I just hate bad Merlot.

So here’s a good Merlot that’s also affordable.

Bottle shot:

and the semi-obligatory photo of the light on my kitchen ceiling as seen through a 5oz pour of this wine in my 16oz glass:

Region: Monterey County, CA
Grapes involved:
Merlot
Cost: $12-$15 -ish
Food pairings: Do what I did and have it with baguette, mozzarella and duck skin. Or, you know, don’t. But duck would work, especially if in confit form and dumped on top of a huge pile of spring greens or any other kind of fun lettuce-y stuff you’re into.

So what makes an affordable Merlot not suck? It’s pretty much everything here.

The wine smells like this huge pile of plum, bright tart cherry, violet leaf, and a touch of leather(!)*** and chocolate. Bittersweet, very dark chocolate. The longer it aerates, the more the plummy cherry scents come out to play. That said, it never goes fruit bomb, either – there’s a definitely balance between the fruity aspects and the other notes.

Flavor-wise, there’s an initial hit of milk chocolate before everything else hits , which is really fun – I was put in the mind of a Hershey’s Kiss for a moment. After that first moment, it blows up into bright red tart cherries and plum – bright and acidic – before softening again into violet, violet leaf, and a bit of garden soil. This is a medium-bodied wine with fairly firm tannins that balance well with the acidity and an alcoholic sort of brightness – yet it does all of that with a bit of softness, if that makes ANY sense whatsoever. The finish is long and reminiscent of really tart green apples that have been lightly dusted in violet sugar.

So there you go: inexpensive Merlot that is also awesome Merlot. I spent a solid decade of my life thinking such a thing was an impossibility. I’m really happy to have been proven wrong.

And PJ, enjoy your new job. They’re effing lucky to have you.

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*from the film:
Jack: If they want to drink Merlot, we’re drinking Merlot.
Miles Raymond: No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!
…Miles then proceeds to spend the rest of the film extolling the virtues of Pinot Noir in spite of because of its general pain in the ass level, because Miles is like that.
**yeah, I can be hipster like that. It’s not pretty.
***leather scents in wine are so, so awesome ❤

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2007 Chateau Bonnet Bordeaux

Featuring this week on Kim and Tonic:

2007 Chateau Bonnet Appellation Bordeaux Controllée
A Review in Tweets
(with apologies to those not on twitter, as that is likely to make reading this particular post difficult)

Region: Bordeaux, France
Grapes involved: 50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon
Cost: $17.99
Food pairings: It worked fairly well with the chicken cacciatore we had for dinner.  It would probably rock with a steak au poivre.

To set the scene: I’ve had at least one memorable experience with being truly weirded out by French wine. This experience began the same way, and it occurred to me in a fit of silly to tweet the whole thing. So I did.

Roughly two minutes after opening the bottle and pouring a glass 
@kimandtonic: So. Just poured wine. Tastes like dirty feet and bitter tomatoes. Will update when it gets better. #wineexperiment

A conversation
@mittenstrings: @kimandtonic you should have a rating system on your blog for bad wine — like how many glasses until it gets tolerable.
@kimandtonic: @mittenstrings this will be good, supposedly. It’s a Bordeaux. Am timing how long it needs to aerate until it’s remotely drinkable.
@mittenstrings: @kimandtonic ah. This requires more effort than my wine-ing generally.
@kimandtonic: @mittenstrings what I am learning right now is that French wine is a PITA.

15 minutes post-pour
@kimandtonic: At the fifteen minute mark, wine smells like bitter tomatoes, feet and cherry. #wineexperiment Wine is 2007 Chateau Bonnet Bordeaux

30 minutes post-pour
@kimandtonic: Wine now smells like very little and tastes like sour peppercorns with a hint of cherry. #wineexperiment

45 minutes post-pour
@kimandtonic: Wine has developed tannin! Like, we almost have a flavor that isn’t undrinkably bad! #wineexperiment #whypeoplehatemerlot

53 minutes post-pour
@kimandtonic: We have wine! Leather, pepper, cherry, hint of earth, high tannin, full body, better with food than alone. #wineexperiment

Wrap up:
No sir, I don’t like it. Will try again in two days to see if ample breathing time makes it magically delicious. Have not yet given up on French wines, but I’m currently 1/3 on enjoying them.

In other words, part of me wonders if there’s something I’m missing, or a particular flavor profile I don’t yet understand; part of me wonders if the French keep most of their truly fantastic wines to themselves (which I would understand, frankly); part of me wonders if I’m just too high on the fruity Merlot I had the other day to appreciate the leather-pepper thing I had tonight; and finally, part of me wonders if maybe this wine just kinda sucks.

2007 Emmolo Merlot

This is a freebie review on a non-review day that I’m posting because I got a fairly hefty sample of this stuff and it was good enough that I needed to scribble about it to figure out what I was drinking. I think I needed to scribble about it largely because it’s a Merlot that I really like – the vast majority of my pre-current-job Merlot tasting was of super-duper cheap Merlot, and there’s nothing says “bad wine” like “cheap Merlot.”*

I don’t think this particular Merlot is remotely cheap, but I don’t have an exact price either.

Region: Napa, California
Grapes involved: Merlot
Cost: $not sure
Food pairings: I can tell you what I want right now, and that is a plate of seared duck breast with some kind of cherry or port sauce. I think it would work beautifully with barbecue as well – for some reason, Merlot is my go-to for barbecue.

Color-wise, this wine is so purple it’s almost black. Because it’s so dark, it took me a while to figure out how to get it at an angle that would allow me to judge the color of the wine in any realistic fashion – when I finally did, it’s a deep reddish-purple hue.

This wine has a really powerful nose, all plummy-spicy-cherry with back hints of wood. It’s not bright enough for me to want to call it jammy (jammy means “bright red” to me) – this is a purple, maybe even blackened purple.

Taste: it begins with plum. LOTS of plum. The plum gets followed up by a combination of everything from clove and sage to wood and vanilla. Very dark purple flavor.** The aftertaste is a lot of wood with some tannin and smoke. The tannins are HUGE in this wine: heavy, almost grating, impossible to miss or to aerate into submission.

Overall, I really like this wine. I’ll update a price if/when I have one – as I said, these notes all come from a fairly hefty sample. Good wine, tihough, and makes me want to try Emmolo’s Sauvignon Blanc ($17.99), which we carry at work.

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*A girl in college at a party once described cheap Merlot to me as smelling like, and I quote, “bad sex.” I’ve never figured out what I think that smells like, exactly, but I do know that the description was evocative enough that I’ve never forgotten it.
Also, I think it’s that she was smelling tannins and didn’t like tannin. I think tannin smells like dirty feet.

…I’m not going to continue on with that line of thought.

**I heart synaesthesia – among other things, it’s the idea that colors apply to things other than, well, colors. So scents can smell orange or yellow or purple or red or pink or green or whatever. Labeling the scents by color actually helps me sort out what I’m smelling, so it’s the type of thing you’re like to see a lot of on this blog, especially when it comes to wine.

Nathanson Creek Merlot

Wine: Nathanson Creek Merlot*
Grapes involved: Merlot
Color: deep red with a hint of a brownish tone
Cost: $7.99
Region: vinted and bottled in California, but no clue where the grapes are grown
Label-provided tasting notes: It’s all marketing wharblegarble. I’ll spare you unless the Chard also sucks.

So. Here’s the wine:

Like, it looks like wine (albeit not in a pretty glass)(but I kinda like wine in tumblers).

Let’s see. Initially, it smelled like stale mansweat. Then it added a layer of smoke. Then a layer of berry, which quickly devolved into berry-flavored candy. It’s a complex, layered scent, people. Stale berry-flavor smoky mansweat.

YUMM-O, as Rachel Ray would say.**

Flavor wise, it starts with a definite hit of black pepper, then berry cherry plum, then tannins, then something that I can pretty much only describe as sweat. The aftertaste is roughly the same, plus burny alcohol. And it hangs out FOREVER.

To sum up:

I HATE CHEAP MERLOT

Food pairing guesses: Don’t. Like, don’t pair food with this, because you shouldn’t drink this wine. Seriously. It’s not even the Merlot’s fault, because I’ve had good Merlot. Like the Hunter Ashby release right now. That was good.

This is horrifying. Stay far, far away.

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*notice the lack of vintage? Yeah, that didn’t strike me as a good sign either.
**I am not a Rachel Ray fan.

And as a final, parting note: if I think a wine sucks, it doesn’t mean the wine sucks. It just means I don’t like it. Well, usually, anyway. I’m pretty sure this just objectively sucks.