October is Merlot month and as the seasons change, what a better time than to settle down with an outstanding, silky Merlot wine? Miles from Sideways had it all wrong and while the ‘Sideways Effect’ significantly shaped the wine market, sales began to swing back in Merlot’s favor starting in 2015 and have been slowly rising since that time.
Napa crafts arguably some of the best Merlot in the United States. The flavors profiles of Napa Merlot tend to be quite classic with refined tannins and wonderful deep dark fruits, with underlying spice and chocolate flavors. There are some terrific Merlots out of Napa and my recent report confirmed that Napa Merlot is not one to be overlooked.
I was absolutely blown away with the 2016 Pahlmeyer Merlot (WWB, 96) ($90.00) which is a dense beast of a wine that really needs another year or two in the bottle to be fully integrated. Opulent, rich and marvelously layered, the 2016 Duckhorn Vineyards ‘Three Palms Vineyard’ Merlot (WWB, 94) ($100.00) is highly gratifying and silky even at this stage in its development.
There were some beautiful Napa Merlot wines I sampled were outrageously good for the price. The 2016 Darioush ‘Signature’ Merlot (WWB, 95) ($60.00) is a stunning example with incredible richness and poise from this warm vintage. For a good value, look to thee 2016 HALL Merlot (WWB, 92) ($40.00) and the 2016 Markham Merlot (WWB, 90) ($25.00) which give you some serious bang for the buck. Cabernet may be king but there are some sensational Merlots out of Napa that are not to be overlooked. Here are our recommended Napa Merlots.
2015 Amuse Bouche Red Wine- The 2015 Amuse Bouche is largely Merlot (88%) that was sourced from the Napa Valley. Heidi Barrett owns a secret vineyard in the eastern Rutherford Hills which this wine is sourced from. The nose is intoxicating with bright red fruits that mingle with cedar, creme de cassis, dusty terroir and shades of mocha that all build in the glass. The texture is downright ethereal as this silky wine glides across the mid-palate. Dense tar, anise, creme de cassis and blueberry compote flavors with shades of damp terroir all collide on the palate. The exceedingly long finish lingers long on the tongue. Sensational now, this gorgeous expression of Napa Merlot will provide drinking enjoyment for the next two decades. Drink 2020-2040- 95
2016 Chappellet Merlot- The 2016 Chappellet Merlot was aged for 22 months in French oak barrels prior to being bottled as the final blending is comprised of 77% Merlot, 10% Malbec, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, and 5% Petit Verdot. Lovely chocolate covered kirsch aromas mingle with the sandalwood and earthy undertones that all take shape in the glass. The palate shows some lovely viscosity as rich roasted fig flavors parade with the red cherry compote, chocolate covered loganberry and light tobacco leaf flavors. Burly and decadent, this will have a long life ahead of it. Drink 2019-2035- 93
2016 Darioush ‘Signature’ Merlot- The 2016 ‘Signature’ Merlot by Darioush is a stunning new wine by the talented winemaking team at Darioush. Sourced from the Darioush Estate Vineyard as well as their vineyard in Mt. Veeder. The wine was aged for 22 months in largely new French oak prior to bottling. The nose is perfumed and simply gorgeous as ripe dark plum with shades of red cherry tomato and black cherry cordial. The palate shows a silky character with lovely tension. The weight of the wine is fantastic as the wine unveils black cherry liquor with blackberry pie and shades of dusty terroir and shades of sandalwood. While fantastic now, this will evolve marvelously for fifteen plus years. Drink 2019-2035- 95
2016 Duckhorn ‘Napa Valley’ Merlot- The 2016 Duckhorn ‘Napa Valley’ Merlot is a complex blend of 77% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, .5% Malbec and .5 % Petit Verdot that was largely aged in neutral oak prior to bottling. This opens with an arousing bouquet of kirsch, sweet pipe tobacco, leather and blackberry cobbler that all build in the glass. The mouthfeel here is gorgeous as black and red fruits collide with the toasty oak and earthy undertones. Beautifully balanced, this will age for a decade or more. Drink 2019-2029- 92
2016 Duckhorn ‘Atlas Peak’ Merlot- The ‘Atlas Peak’ Merlot is a gorgeous 100% varietal wine that was aged in 50% new French oak for sixteen months prior to bottling. On the nose there are shades of black licorice woven together with milk chocolate and anise that all build together in the glass. The silky texture really entices here as the wine artfully dances across the mid-palate. Loganberry puree with suggestions of cocoa powder and sagebrush accents complete this gorgeous new bottling. While outstanding in its youth, this excellent new Merlot will have decades ahead of it. Drink 2019-2035- 93
2016 Duckhorn ‘Three Palms Vineyard’ Merlot- The 2016 Duckhorn ‘Three Palms Vineyard’ is another stellar release by the talented Renee Ary. Aged in 100% new French oak for eighteen months, the Merlot has 6% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Malbec blended in. The nose exudes class with ripe chocolate covered bing cherry and shades of sweet pipe tobacco that mingle with the dusty terroir tones on the nose. The palate is plush, giving an err of decadence. The silky mouthfeel really gives a feel of opulence. Black Forest cake and dark licorice flavors collide with the dusty minerals and cigar box flavors. Simply outstanding in its youth following a one hour decant, this stunning Merlot will cellar well for decades. Drink 2020-2040- 94
2016 HALL Merlot- The 2016 HALL Merlot is another fantastic bottling from this famed Napa estate. On the nose this takes on lovely creme de cassis and tar aromas that mingle with shades of blackberry cobbler on this expressive nose. The soft texture is inviting as the wine unveils copious dark fruits and chocolate flavors. This deftly walks the tightrope of unveiling the warmth of the vintage yet also displays some restraint.While fantastic now, this compelling Merlot will continue to evolve well for at least another decade. Drink 2019-2029- 92
2015 Materra ‘Right Bank’ Merlot- The 2015 Materra ‘Right Bank’ Merlot was aged for 22 months in French oak prior to bottling. Ripe raspberry jam and shades of chocolate and tar fill the nose. The palate is soft, showing off a lovely texture. Chocolate covered dark cherry and roasted fig flavors mingle with the toasty oak character on the palate. With its soft texture, this downright delicious Merlot will cellar well over the next decade. Drink 2019-2029- 90
2016 Markham Merlot- The 2016 Markham Merlot was aged for nearly fifteen months in French & American Oak (32% new) prior to bottling. Sourced from mainly estate vineyards, this opens with ripe Hoisin sauce, black tea and rich mocha aromas that fill the glass. Round and generous on the mouth, the wine delivers ripe black fruits that mingle with the chocolate and espresso bean undertones on the palate. Drink 2019-2025- 90
2016 Pahlmeyer Merlot- The 2016 Pahlmeyer Merlot is a simply magical effort from this warm vintage in the Napa Valley. Nearly all Merlot (96.5%) with just a touch of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon added, the wine was aged for 20 months in 85% new French oak before bottling. The nose is downright seductive with its black tea, exotic spice and chocolate tones that meld with the dark fruits in the glass. The palate is exceedingly elegant, showing a silky mouthfeel and marvelous texture. Intense black tea, blackberry cobbler, Turkish coffee, dusty terroir and minerals come together on the palate. The marvelously long and inviting black fruit and mineral-driven finish lingers long on the tongue. While sensational now, the 2016 Pahlmeyer Merlot will have an exceedingly long life ahead of it. Drink 2019-2038- 96
Robert Mondavi Winery
2016 Robert Mondavi Winery Merlot- The 2016 Merlot by Robert Mondavi is a blend of 76% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon. Forward and nicely poised, this shows ripe black plum, blackberry pie and milk chocolate flavors. Drink 2019-2025- 89
Robert Foley Vineyards
2014 Robert Foley Vineyards Merlot- The 2014 Robert Foley Vineyards Merlot shows dense tar and candied black cherry with chocolate undertones on the nose. The palate has good power and poise with deep dark fruit and chocolate flavors, with some herbal undertones. This sturdy Merlot will have a decade or cellaring ahead of it. Drink 2019-2027- 90
2016 Rutherford Hill Merlot- The 2016 Rutherford Hill Merlot opens with aromas of baking spices that mingle with dark cherry compote and chocolate fudge that all come together in the glass. The palate shows lively acidity with medium-bodied dark fruits that mingle with minerals and chocolate. Drink 2019-2024- 88
2016 Rutherford Hill Merlot- The terroir imparted instantly takes you to Oakville with its lush creme de cassis tones that mingle with the dusty terroir aromatically. The soft texture is lovely, as light tannins line the dark fruit, cocoa powder and black licorice flavors that sit with the earthy undertones. This is really nice stuff now that will evolve well for a decade or more. Drink 2019-2029- 91
2016 Rutherford Hill ‘Atlas Peak’ Merlot- Sourced from this famed AVA high above the valley floor, the 2016 Rutherford Hill ‘Atlas Peak’ Merlot opens with a bright bouquet of nutmeg and cloves that collide with the dense dark fruit and espresso bean aromas. The palate is plush, showing off a silky mouthfeel. Dark cherry cordial, mocha and tar flavors collide with the lovely leafy and herbal undertones of the wine. Fantastic now, this outstanding new release will cellar well for a decade or more. Drink 2019-2029- 91
2016 Rutherford Hill ‘Cask Reserve’ Merlot- The ‘Cask Reserve’ is a barrel selection Merlot wine made by winemaker Marisa Taylor. Showing off its dense core, this begins with a dusting of cocoa powder followed by anise and black tea aromas that all collide together in the glass. The soft texture imparted is really outstanding, as is the bright beam of salinity that runs through the wine. Chocolate covered dark cherry, creme de cassis and tomato leaf flavors mingle with the dusty terroir and minerals. Beautiful now, this esteemed Merlot will cellar well for a decade or more. Be sure to give this an hour decant if enjoying in its youth. Drink 2020-2035- 92
2004 Seavey Merlot-While this report focuses on new release wines, I simply could not fail to write about the 2004 Seavey Merlot which is showing marvelously now at the fifteen year mark. Aged in 40% new French oak, the wine is a silky blend of 75% Merlot with the remainder Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and Petit Verdot (10%). The earthy tones aromatically are really nice, as this shows dusty terroir that has settled with the black fruits and black tea aromas that all come together in the glass. The palate is soft, rich and downright elegant. Black fruits collide with shades of creme de cassis and mocha, with the lovely damp terroir terroir that round out this beautiful palate. This is absolutely singing at the fifteen year mark but has another ten years left. Drink 2019-2029- 92
2016 Seavey Merlot- The 2016 Seavey Merlot is a sensational new wine that has a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon blended in (5%). The wine was aged for twenty months in 30% new French oak prior to bottling. Showing off its deep core, the 2016 Seavey Merlot opens with freshly roasted espresso bean with a dusting of cocoa powder and shades of red bell pepper that all enter the fray aromatically. The palate is plush, showing off a silky mouthfeel and wonderful texture that entices. Black Forest cake flavors with shades of Turkish coffee mingle with the bright combination of red and dark fruits. The mineral backbone and weight of the wine suggest this will cellar well for decades. Drink 2019-2035- 92
2016 Truchard Merlot- The 2016 Truchard Merlot shows lovely red bell pepper with black and red fruits that mingle with the baking spices on the nose. The palate is plush, showing a great brightness and sense of minerality. Medium-bodied red and dark fruits line the palate with chocolate. This is delicious in its youth but will cellar well for a decade or more. Drink 2019-2029- 90