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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Atlas Shrugged

What is Merlot? The second cousin to Cabernet Sauvignon? The over planted, over hyped grape as a counterpart to Syrah? American Merlot has long been denied respectability in part because it’s treated (typically) like a cheap wine here in the US. Sure, go to France and Merlot gets more respect. Ah, respect. That’s the word. There are a handful of excellent producers of Merlot in California and in case you’re thinking that Merlot is second fiddle, Duckhorn’s 2011 Napa Valley Atlas Peak Merlot is a game changer.
The best Duckhorn Merlots rival Cabernet, not in their Cabernet-esque quality, but provide more manageable tannins with as much robust ripe deep red fruit. Should you shrug and say, I don't really care? Well, that's up to you but Merlot should not be viewed in anyway shape or form as somehow inferior to Cabernet. It is a different grape altogether and whether you appreciate the nuances or not, to avoid drinking Merlot limits your wine knowledge. The grapes for this wine, grown on Atlas Peak located on the Western side of the Vaca Mountain range and first planted to grapes around 1870, are typically cooler than Napa Valley floor fruit and yet they achieve a stunning maturation. This Altas Peak shows how compelling Merlot can be; rich definable blueberry, blackberry, black cherry, huckleberry, cedar, all judiciously handled by the Duckhorn team – experts in Merlot. Sure the market is awash with inferior generic versions of Merlot (much to my dismay), but do not let those iterations cause you to believe that Merlot is a one-trick pony. Yes, the Duckhorn Merlots are not inexpensive, but after spending time with them, you will gain an understanding of the breadth of what Merlot can be.

ORIGIN: Napa, California
PRICE: $72/ 750ML
ALCOHOL: 13.5%

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