Daily Archives: May 24, 2012

2009 Sterling Vintner’s Collection Meritage

I am just realizing this is my first blog entry on red wine…see, I am not as one dimensional as you thought!

Prior to buying this, I had never seen the name Meritage before, so I checked it out and found this on it: It is a term coined by American winemakers, that stands for Bordeaux-style wines. This means not one or two grape varietals but rather a blend of several varietals to create a complex and harmonious product. Some California winemakers decided to found the Meritage Association (now: Meritage Alliance) in 1988 and you have to be a member to label wines “Meritage”. A clever guy came up with a combination of “merit” and “heritage”, so it is to be pronounced like heritage, just with an “m”…

While modern times have become more and more obsessed with single variety wines (you know what I’m talking about when you look at your supermarket’s or winestore’s wine displays), it is not at all uncommon to blend several grapes into one wine. Bordeaux is the prime example, but also Chianti classico is made of several varietals (until a couple of years ago, they could even include white grapes!) same as a lot of wines from Portugal’s Douro region. It gives winemakers the unique chance of blending different tastes together into one. I personally like blended wines, the rough edges of a cabernet sauvignon can be mellowed by merlot for example. When I once talked to a Douro winemaker friend of mine and mentioned that I had tried and hated a single varietal “tinta barocca” in South Africa, he looked at me in shock. How could anyone make single variety tinta barocca, he asked? It is a classic filler grape for bigger reds…

Now on to this one. Sterling is a huge winery in Napa Valley. You can check out their site here (with elevator music…). The Vintner’s Collection is their “cheap”, really mass label. We paid about $10, I think. This Meritage (thankfully they put that on the label) has 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 7% Malbec, and 3% Petit Verdot in it. Upon pouring, it showed its not overly dark color, which I found surprising. I had expected a way darker red. The nose was strong and full of different smells: initially strawberry hit me, then vanilla and cherry. Somewhere in the middle, herbal and floral notes crept in and I think I smelled some very light tobacco as well. It was awesome. I have not had a bold red in a while, and this reminded me of all things good. The taste was chewy and powerful. Initially smoky, leathery, some black pepper. Then red fruits came in. There was a distinct note of acidity that gave the impression of some unripe grapes in the wine. This acidity also made the wine taste more like plums, which I found appealing. The finish is ok.

I did like this wine. It was bold and not ashamed of it. Especially given that it was mass-produced I did like it. Some imbalances, the acidity, but all in all a very decent wine. Oh, and it went well with the pizza we had, too.

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