In 2004, following the premiere of the movie Sideways, Merlot experienced a decline in sales and status when Paul Giamatti’s character Miles disparaged the ordering and drinking of Merlot. As one of the noble grapes, however, Merlot should not be so quickly dismissed because it can produce classic and easily aged wines. In my experience, the aging of Merlot can be achieved for expensive French Right-bank Bordeaux as well as less expensive American bottles. In fact, in the past, I reviewed a Francis Ford Coppola 2001 Diamond Series Merlot that was given to me as a gift. I found that aging the wine gave it a supple quality that is not present in younger versions of Coppola’s Merlot.
During a special promotion from the wine flash-sale site Lot 18, I ordered two bottles of the 2005 Gann Family Cellars Alexander Valley Merlot (13.9% alcohol). This is not a winery that I was familiar with, but I Googled them and found that the price Lot 18 was offering was a good deal and I decided it give it a try.
Upon opening the bottle, the first thing that I noticed is that there was a little sediment on the cork and that the wine smelled great in the bottle. Because of the sediment, I poured very slowly to ensure that very little sediment was deposited in my glass. A deep garnet color in the glass, the wine had a nose of ripe pit fruit (think plum) and berries (certainly light strawberry, but also a little blackberry). On first taste, the wine was quite bright with mixed berries, black plum, medium tannis, and in classic Merlot fashion, pepper (although the pepper here was very, very light).
On the second day, the wine was still quite enjoyable, but not nearly as bright or as fruity. On both days, the bottle paired wonderfully with dark chocolate! Purchased from Lot 18, 2 bottles cost $29.99. (Rating ****1/2)