Why merlot could come back into fashion

Grapes: 100 percent Merlot
Location: St. Helena, Napa Valley, California
Winery owner: Robert Keenan
Approximate retail price: $46
Website: keenanwinery.com

Tasting Notes:

Color: Deep garnet and carmine red hues, slightly opaque and reflective

Aroma: Bing and black cherry with mild spice, oak and a hint of rose petal and earthiness

Taste: Ripe, spicy blue and red fruits dominate the palate laced with black tea, medium tannins and mouthwatering acidity.

It would be easy to blame one movie from more than 20 years ago for the demise of the popularity of Merlot. However, it’s more likely that the mass production of poorly made Merlot, due to its high demand, actually caused that movie to have anything to say about it in the first place.

But, in truth, Merlot is one of the most noble grape varietals in the world and has a colorful and rich history. With its origins in Bordeaux, France, Merlot has found roots all over the world to various soil types and climates. Some areas of note are the state of Washington and California, where Merlot is an integral part of winemaking and can show itself as a robust, darker and more tannic wine or as a soft and pleasing, yet complex wine.

Before the birth of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot was the dominant varietal in Bordeaux. On the right bank in Bordeaux, in regions such as Saint-Emilion and Pomerol, Merlot still tends to be the majority varietal over most of the blends. Though Merlot is often used as a blending grape, it can obviously hold its own as a single varietal.

This month’s wine is a perfect example of a superior quality, extremely delicious, single varietal Merlot.

Keenan Winery from Napa Valley, while proudly boasting a variety of wines they produce, devoutly stands behind its Merlots. Stylistically, the Napa Valley Merlot they produce (one of three in their portfolio), can be considered a hybrid of Old World and New World methods. While showing a mellower elegance on the nose and mouth, it simultaneously reveals darker fruits, spicier aromas and more prevalent tannins.

Keenan Winery sources most of its grapes for the Napa Merlot from its own estate vineyards but can also blend in grapes sourced from neighboring vineyards. They keep their production of this Merlot relatively low, at around 2,000 cases, which enables them to focus on the quality of the wine over the quantity.

The care taken from farm to barrel to bottle shows remarkably the second that cork is popped. You might become so distracted by the nose that you’ll forget to drink it!

Point for Merlot. Hats off to Keenan Winery.

Food Pairings: Grilled red meats, roasted chicken and pork, cheese and charcuterie, salmon, roasted vegetables, chocolate