Lunch with 15 Merlot and friends

Our lunch group enjoyed another fabulous lunch in the friendly confines of the Library Room in the Santa Barbara Club. Our wine theme was Merlot and Chef Humberto pulled out all the stops and delivered special plates of nicely paired dishes.

Our starter wine was the NV DELAMOTTE BRUT: this was my 2nd bottle recently and I found it to have consistently pleasing notes; theres bright acidity coming through the more prevalent taste of lemon zest that compliments the fresh floral, citrus laden aromatics; the creamy mousse gives this just the right mouthfeel to carry all of the treasures to the back end; IMHO, this is a GREAT QPR at ~$35. Its my understanding that a lot of the fruit used in this entry level bubbly for Delamotte [1 of 6 in all] comes from that which does not go into its big sister, Salon. Both are made by the Laurent-Perrier group.

Some of the Merlot we tasted included:

1998 ROBERT MONDAVI STAGS LEAP DISTRICT NAPA UNFILTERED MERLOT: the nose had such a nice invitation of something good forthcoming; there was a bit of nice spicy red fruit almost mindful of a Pinot Noir with its lighter red style of red raspberry and strawberry; it had at the most, a medium body which along with the mild fruit profile gave it a high degree of elegance; as much as I wanted it to hold on and finish what it started, it dried out at the end; still very pleasing overall.

1998 DUCKHORN THREE PALMS VINEYARD NAPA MERLOT- the colour was a very light red; the nose had mild essences of red raspberry, red cherry/ berry fruit; in the taste I got more of the same fruit profile with more oomph behind it; it was nicely balanced and seemed to grow in the glass getting bigger and more expressive; showing brilliantly.

1990 CHATEAU CLINET POMEROL- the aromatics had smoke and toast most prevalent which led to a surprisingly different taste of nice black currant, plum and blackberry which held on for a grand finish; my pour was 3rd from the end [out of 16] and the amount of sediment was enough for all of the bottles we had on this day.

1999 TUA RITA REDIGAFFI TOSCANA- one of my favourite wines in any vintage, this pleased as expected; the colour was a deceiving youthful dark red; the nose gave dark fruit with a hit of talc in the background; on the palate, it gave generous amounts of cranberry, red cherry, black raspberry and black currant; this got bigger and bigger over a small amount of time in the glass; it was full bodied and had an extended finish; great now and even better in 10+ years.

2001 CHATEAU PAVIE ST. EMILION- the nose was close to being called Bretty; there was some musty, dusty, earthy [not barnyard] notes that fortunately lightened up and gave way to pleasing smoky, liquorice and chocolate immersed dark fruit; the underlying tannins were ever present and almost, but not quite took over at the end; 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.
2000 CHATEAU JEAN de GUE LALANDE-de-POMEROL- lots of red and black fruit with some smoke and liquorice accents; it was tangy, oaky and tannic.

2000 CHATEAU PIGANEAU ST. EMILION- minty, peppermint, eucalyptus laced wild cranberry and black cherry fruit highlight this more one dimensional, but tasty treat; 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 PRIDE MOUNTAIN VINEYARDS MERLOT- 70% Napa and 30% Sonoma; this exuded greatness from the vibrant rich dark purple colour on; it greeted us with a big nose full of coffee and spice along with fresh ripe blackberry which continued on to the back end; it was full bodied, had unfolding layers of wondrous notes and a velvety texture to seal the deal; one of my favs of the day; 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.

1999 DEL DOTTO NAPA MERLOT- for a first time exposure to this wine and label, I was impressed; it hit all of the sensory preceptors with charm, grace and elegance; with a still youthful dark purple colour, it gave up really nice black cherry and plum along with accents of coffee and mint; it was beautifully balanced and the wonderful fruit profile stayed the course throughout; another one of my favs of the day.

2005 O`SHAUGHNESSY HOWELL MOUNTAIN MERLOT- this bottle went through some very interesting phases; I had to avoid going deep in the nose as the alcohol hit was huge and then the super ripe black fruit came on as hot and heavy; there was also a medicinal note that played throughout; in time, some of the better virtues peeked out, but just a bit; the finish was also unexpected as the fruit got real sweet as if from residual sugar.

2000 ARIETTA RED VARIATION ONE- 72% Merlot, 28% Syrah; “A wilder, crazier, growling kind of a wine,’ admits winemaker John Kongsgaard”; well Im not so sure about that, but this was certainly a study in leather; the nose seemed to be somewhat misleading with nice fruity notes, but thats where the noticeable fruit ended as serious hits of leather are upfront and primary therafter; there was some earthy, powered dirt, but more leather that just would not quit; past mid palate, the black currant notes dried completely out; I`m assuming we had a gross bottle variation.

2001 PALOMA NAPA MERLOT- 14.8% abv; this big brut had almost overwhelming notes from the nose thru the tail; along with a touch of chocolate, concentrated grape jam flavours followed, sustained and dominated; had I not seen the bottle, I would have pegged this to be an Amarone; to further support that contention, a strong hit of raisons came in at the end; this was an intense wine and little sips were all that was needed to explore it; as with most of the wines we had, decanting is highly recommended.

2007 HOURGLASS BLUELINE VINEYARD NAPA MERLOT- made by Bob Foley, this bottle was still in it adolescent stage with everything suggesting more time is needed; Ive had a few of this 100% Merlot before and this was tighter and somewhat closed in comparison; it still gave strong inclinations of its goodness with rich coffee, toasty vanilla and chocolate laden black fruit; its full bodied, super complex and long.

2012 CHATEAU CANON ST. EMILION- I loved this out of the gate and way beyond; It was perfectly in balance and gave just the right amount of liquorice and spicy black fruit to be delivered in a silky texture which aided in the long, pleasant finish; this had elegance and sophistication and was another one of my favs on the day.

2014 PETRUSSA ROSSO PETRUSSA COLLI ORIENTALI del FRIULI MERLOT- I traveled through Fruili for 10 days and do not recall ever having a Merlot, but this would have been the one to do if I`d had one; this bottle gave up really nice spicy blueberry and blackberry which finished on the wild side; the flavours and mouthfeel were hallmarks; very good wine in the mold of a medium body, elegant and wine graced with finesse.

2015 SHAFER NAPA MERLOT- 15.1% abv; another fav on the day, this wondrous juice had generous amounts of minty and spicy blackberry, black cherry and plum being carried along the palate in a velvety substance; it had balance and a youthful vibrance along with an integrated oak influence; this has structure for longevity and ideally should be opened again in about 5-8+ years for tracking.

We enjoyed 3 dessert wines to finish up this glorious lunch:

2002 DOMAINE HUET CUVEE CONSTANCE VOUVRAY- this 100% Late Harvest Chenin Blanc gave some of the acidity we`d missed in the Merlot; it was so pleasant and perfectly balanced in sweetness, acidity and fruit; honeyed dried apricot was most evident in the taste and the viscous texture added superbly to the whole experience.

1985 WARRE VINTAGE PORT- this was surprisingly only medium bodied with mild pleasing notes that included allspice, mocha, milk chocolate and honeyed plum; certainly this is more on the feminine side of vintage Port and was devoid of the heat and intensity of some of the more serious Ports; for me, this was very preferable.

2001 CHATEAU CLIMENS BARSAC- 375 ml; atypical light yellow colour; burnt honeyed apricot nectar with a hint of mint; thick and almost chewy texture; great dessert wine.

As usual, everyone stepped up and brought good stuff to share. We are blessed to have such an incredible venue with ambience of a private dining room in a library setting, a top notch chef who personalises our menu, dedicated and conscientious service and a group of wine passionate folks who have vast cellars and a sharing consciousness. Another perfect example of life being good.




That’s quite a lineup! I remember the 2001 Paloma Merlot was one of the first “wow” wines for me, right upon release. In subsequent tastings, I (like you) think it was better back then than now with the over-ripeness coming through. I still buy some today, however. Thanks for posting!

Brandon, FWIIW, I was just advised by the one who brought it that it was decanted over 3 hours before pouring.

Cool tasting Blake, thx for the great notes (as always).

Love the notes as always Blake…glad the 2012 Canon showed as well as it did…I was impressed by silky finesse of the 2014, looks to be approachable earlier!

Alex- many thanks

Subu- also many thanks and the 14` sounds similar with both being winners.

great notes as always Blake; very sorry I had to miss this; would loved to have tried the Redigaffi