Tasting No 189. – June 26, 2017 – Merlot and its Blends


 Club del Vino


Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

Saint Emilion

1. Presenters and Participants

Wines presenters: Alberto Gómez, Orlando Mason


MembersMario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Jorge Claro, Ruth Connolly, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán, Alberto Gómez, Jaime Jaramillo, Peter Lapera, Orlando Mason, Italo Mirkow, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sánchez, Jairo Sanchez, Ricardo Santiago, Pedro Turina, Ricardo Zavaleta, Germán Zincke.

Type of Tasting: Blind

2. Tasting Overview  

The  main objectives of this tasting are to compare Merlot-based wines from the new and old worlds to determine differences in style, evaluate their characteristics and establish group and individual preferences. We will also judge the best pairings with the food.

These are the wines:

  1. 2013 Duckhorn, Napa Valley, Merlot
  2. 2010 Château Fombrauge, Saint Emilion, Grand Cru
  3. 2013 Chateau Ste Michelle, Canoe Ridge Estate, Columbia Valley, Merlot
  4. 2012 Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre, Colchagua and Rapel Valleys, Merlot

3. The Menu

  1. Tegamino E Vongole Di Cozze – Prince Edward mussels and Clams sautéed in a red wine sauce, served with toasted bread.
  2. Insalata Della CasaMixed Organic Greens Tossed with Virgin Olive Oil & Aged Balsamic Vinegar.
  3. Pappardelle Verde – Green flat pasta with chicken breast, Italian sausages, mushroom and tomato sauce.
  4. Short Ribs –Short ribs in red wine sauce with roasted squash, red pepper, & mushrooms.
  5. Dessert/Coffee

4. Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from varios internet sources) .

2013 Duckhorn, Napa Valley, Merlot

The Wine:  Winemaker’s Notes. This gorgeous wine displays intense aromas of ripe cherry, followed by more nuanced elements of cedar, sweet spices, orange peel and cigar box. On the palate, layers of black raspberry and spiced plum mingle with more savory notes of nutmeg and pencil lead. With firm, well-integrated tannins that extend the finish, this beautifully structured Merlot also promises great ageability.

The wine is a blend of  88% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. Barrel Aging: 15 Months Age of Barrels: 25% new, 75% second vintage.

The Winery:   Co-founded by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976, Duckhorn Vineyards has spent almost forty years establishing itself as one of North America’s premier producers of Napa Valley wines. From its modest inaugural vintage of 800 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon and 800 cases of Merlot in 1978, to its addition of Sauvignon Blanc in 1982, Duckhorn Vineyards has crafted a tradition of quality and excellence that continues today.

Fundamental to that tradition was the early decision by Duckhorn Vineyards to focus on the production of Merlot. Though many Napa Valley wineries were using Merlot as a blending grape in the late seventies, few were exploring the potential of this varietal as a stand-alone wine. A great fan of Merlot since traveling to St. Emilion and Pomerol, Dan Duckhorn felt that this elegant varietal was under appreciated in North America. “I liked the softness, the seductiveness, the color,” says Dan, “the fact that it went with a lot of different foods; it wasn’t so bold, didn’t need to age so long, and it had this velvety texture to it. It seemed to me to be a wonderful wine to just enjoy. I became enchanted with Merlot.”

(from Wine.com) Duckhorn Vineyards has been crafting Bordeaux varietals from the Napa Valley for over 30 years. This winemaking tradition has grown to include seven estate vineyards, located throughout the various microclimates of the Napa Valley. Focused on quality and consistency, these estate vineyards are an essential element in making wines of distinction.

One of the first wineries to pioneer Merlot as a premium varietal, Duckhorn Vineyards now makes several elegant Merlot and distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings to showcase the characteristics of its vineyard sites. In addition, the winery is known for its acclaimed Sauvignon Blanc. Beginning with the 2006 vintage, Duckhorn Vineyards unveiled The Discussion, a Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend that represents the pinnacle of Duckhorn’s portfolio.

Read more at: https://www.duckhorn.com/

 2010 Château Fombrauge, Saint Emilion, Grand Cru


The Wine: Wine Spectator.“This has a really nice graphite frame that drives the core of fig, plum and boysenberry fruit authoritatively, with dense ganache, espresso and tar on the finish. The grip is keeping things tight now, but this should meld in the cellar, as the underlying feel is energetic. Best from 2015 through 2025. “

Wine Advocate .” This is one of the better, more supple Fombrauge wines to date, with a better integration of toasty oak than I have usually seen at this stage of this wine’s development. The grapes were picked late, with the harvest finishing on October 22, and that has given the wine wonderful ripeness and plenty of chocolaty espresso notes intermixed with incense, black cherries and black currants. The oak is subtle, and the wine full-bodied, attractive, deep, round and generous. Drink it over the next 10-12 years.

This wine is a blend of 77% Merlot, 9% Cabernet sauvignon, and 14% Cabernet Franc

 The Winery:  Château Fombrauge is the largest Grand Cru Classé of Saint-Emilion with a vineyard stretching on 58.60 hectares (143 ac.). It is its exceptional surface area that gives the soil a unique character. A typicity in diversity. Diversity of soils but also multiple exposures donate Château Fombrauge’s wine complexity and identity.

(From Winesearcher.com)Fombrauge has existed as a property since the 15th Century, with the first vines documented in 1613. In 1999, it was bought by Bernard Magrez, and now Michel Rolland acts as consultant. The name of the château derives from Fons Brogiera, a spring surrounded by an area of heather.

The vineyard has diverse soils ranging from chalky clay on limestone to iron-rich deposits and molasse soils. Fombrauge also has a range of different exposures, giving a complexity of terroir which is unusual for the appellation. The majority of the vineyard is planted to Merlot, with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon making up the remainder.

Château Fombrauge is hand-harvested in small crates and is typically cold-macerated before fermentation in oak vats (although stainless steel or concrete tanks may be used depending on the vintage). It is then aged in French oak barrels, 50 percent of which are new.

Read more at: http://www.bernard-magrez.com/en/wines/chateau-fombrauge

 2013 Chateau Ste Michelle, Canoe Ridge Estate, Columbia Valley,  Merlot

The Wine:  Smooth & Supple. Grape/Blend: Predominantly Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. 

Winemaker’s Notes: The Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot is an elegant expression of Washington Merlot. It offers dark cherry fruit character and dusty tannins. This is a perfect match with Italian food and dishes with lamb, beef and fowl.

The Wine Spectator: “Broad and spicy, with pepper and clove overtones to the rich blueberry and currant fruit, coming together harmoniously against softly nubby tannins on the expressive finish. Drink now through 2022.”

Vinous / Antonio Galloni – “Bright ruby-red. Alluring, complex scents of slightly medicinal black cherry, pomegranate, licorice, chicory, garrigue and roast coffee. Suave and fine-grained, communicating excellent energy to its primary dark fruit and spice flavors. Noteworthy definition and class here. Finishes classically dry, juicy and long. An outstanding wine for its relatively gentle price.”

The Winery: The vineyard at Canoe Ridge Estate is home to 559 acres dedicated to producing elegant, refined wines with concentration and structure. 12 million years ago, a powerful river of lava carved what is today known as Canoe Ridge or alternately a bit of “Europe on the Columbia”.Canoe Ridge Estate wines have earned scores of 90 or higher on more than 40 of their wines; and our Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot have each received Wine Spectator ‘Top 100’ honors.

Built on the 1912 estate owned by Seattle lumber baron Frederick Stimson, the winery’s roots date back to the Repeal of Prohibition. The first vines were planted at Cold Creek Vineyard in Eastern Washington in 1972. Four years later, Ste. Michelle Vintners built a French style winery Chateau in Woodinville, and changed its name to Chateau Ste. Michelle. In 1991, we planted our vineyard at Canoe Ridge Estate on the south face of the ridge that rises 950 feet above sea level. The vineyard’s steep slope and proximity to the river combine to alleviate frost pockets and seasonal temperature extremes. Because winters are milder than other parts of the valley, spring bud break is earlier. In the summer, the river moderates temperatures again, giving us an extended growing season and adding character to the grapes. Since then, we have combined Old World winemaking traditions with New World innovation. In fact, Chateau Ste. Michelle is one of the few premium wineries in the world with two state-of-the-art wineries, one for red and one for white. The whites are made at the Chateau in Woodinville, WA, while the reds are made at our Canoe Ridge Estate winery in Eastern Washington.”

Read more at: https://www.ste-michelle.com/

 2012 Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre, Colchagua and Rapel Valleys, Merlot

The Wine: Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Merlot is an intense dark purple color.Complex and intense nose with red and black fruit such as raspberry and blueberries. Dark plums notes and cacao aromas. Round. Juicy tannins structure, balance acidity and very persistent finish. Ideal companion for meats and well seasoned dishes with a red wine demiglace such as short ribs and angus beef.

Wine Enthusiast – “Plum, blackberry and boysenberry aromas show nuances of citrus peel and rubber band. On the palate, this is tight, mildly tannic and slightly astringent due to firm tannins. A mix of ripe blackberry and cassis flavors come with chocolaty oak in front of a hard-pushing, lightly herbal finish.”

This wine is blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Carmenere.

The Winery: Lapostolle was founded by Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle and her husband Cyril de Bournet in 1994. The Marnier Lapostolle family, founders and owners of the world-renowned liqueur Grand Marnier, is famous for producing spirits and liqueurs, but the family has also been involved in winemaking for generations. In creating Lapostolle, the family has pursued the same uncompromising approach to quality that made Grand Marnier a global success. Its objective is as simple as it is ambitious: to create world-class wines using French expertise and the superb terroirs of Chile Today, Lapostolle owns 370 hectares in three different vineyards and produce a total of 200.000 cases spread over Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenère, and Syrah.

Read more at: http://en.lapostollewines.com/

 4.  CV Members Rating

Participants ranking, average scores and wine prices:  The participants judged the wines from very good to excellent according with this order of preference:

1St.  2013 Chateau Ste Michelle, Canoe Ridge Estate, Columbia Valley, Merlot. – 91 Pts. ($26)

2nd 2010 Château Fombrauge, Saint Emilion, Grand Cru – 90 Pts. ($35)

3rd. Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre, Colchagua – 89 Pts. ($21)

4th  2013 Duckhorn, Napa Valley, Merlot 2012 – 89 Pts. ($43)

Best Rated red Wine: 2013 Chateau Ste Michelle, Canoe Ridge Estate, Columbia Valley, Merlot

Best value for Money: Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre, Colchagua

See full evaluation here: Summary of Tasting 189 – .Merlot. docx

5. Technical Notes 

Jairo Sanchez compiled this extensive note on Merlot for those who want to learn more about it: Merlot



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