How do we fail to recognize the clues? Even though this tasting, like all Rude Tasters events, was double blind we should have known. After all, Durk and Kathy Piersma have done some form of Merlot for the past few years. How could we forget!
Alice had a clue, but, I did not. There was nothing about these wines that would have made me guess Merlot. For the most part, the French wines tasted French and the West Coast wines tasted typical of wines hailing from the US West Coast. The only bit of information that the Piersmas offered was the fact that they purchased them at Total Wine on their recent trip to Florida. Knowing that Total Wine carries thousands of wines from everywhere in the world, their clue wasn’t much of a clue.
We started with a couple of Warm up sparklers. Almost universally, the first of the two Warm ups, Conde de Caralt Brut CAVA was enjoyed immensely while the Rondel Brut CAVA was viewed as quite adequate but not in the same league as the Conde de Caralt. As you’ll see by the comments below, there was a pretty close correlation between the price of the wines and the group scores. For once, my scores and the group scores were in the same ball park.
WARM UP WINES
Conde de Caralt Brut CAVA Catalonia SP $9 (11.5% ABV) What a compelling classy sparkling wine with fine fresh zesty citrus fruit and a yeasty complex bouquet. It finishes just like is starts. I love it! My score would be over 90 points as would be most of the other tasters had we rated it.
Rondel Brut CAVA Catalonia SP $9 (11.5% ABV) To me, this wine reminded me of an American Hybrid such as New York’s Delaware, Diamond or Duchess grapes. Certainly a decent well made wine, but, not much class or finesse; a bit grapy and coarse start to finish.
The first three wines seemed to exude French style and elegance though most of us had no idea what grape variety or what region of France. My guess would have been Mediterranean. The wines had a very rich “sunny” demeanor which did not exactly scream “Bordeaux” to me. The fourth wine had a big fat New World style to it but not necessarily Cab-like. One of the things that might have thrown us a curve is that all of the first flight had some Cabernet Sauvignon in them. Outside of the Left Bank, this is neither typical nor traditional. In fact, if they do have Cabernet in them, it is usually Cabernet Franc not Sauvignon. I should probably do some research into the current blending practices. It has been many many years since I was really on top of the Bordeaux scene.
2015 Chateau de Camersac Bordeaux Superieur (65% Merlot / 35% Cabernet Sauvignon) FR $9 (13.5% ABV) Bright clean straightforward and though one dimensional, simple and even maybe a bit harsh, it is good, vinous and satisfying. It does leave one wanting more. My score 82 points, group score 82 points, eighth (last) place.
2016 Chateau Bois Redon Bordeaux Superieur (75% Merlot / 25% Cabernet Sauvignon) FR $10 (13.5% ABV) Here we have loads of fresh bright lively red fruit. There is a nice vividly fruity edge making it seem even a bit hard and tough yet, immensely satisfying. Surprisingly, the fruit at the finish is lush and long. My score 91 points, group score 85 points, seventh place.
2016 Chateau de Cornemps Cuvee Prestige Bordeaux Superieur (80% Merlot / 20% Cabernet Sauvignon) FR $13 (13.5% ABV) Big, monstrously aromatic bright red fruit fills the senses with loads of a really exotic vivid thimbleberry edge and a persistent floral impression with hints of still fermenting grapes fading off into the finish. My score 95 points, group score 87 points, fifth place.
2015 Chateau Feret-Lambert Bordeaux Superieur (90% Merlot / 10% Cabernet Sauvignon) FR $17 (14.5% ABV) Sweet oak, smoke and vanilla bean with a nice touch of earth fill the nose while ripe California-style black fruit soothes the palate. Plums and cherry nuances contribute to the very mature seeming finish. My score 85 points, group score 90 points, third place.
Most of us were pretty sure that this second flight hailed from the US West Coast though I didn’t hear too many rumblings of Merlot. Because all of the wines are appellation specific, they are required to be a minimum of at least 85% of the varietal named on the label; Merlot.
2017 Radius Walla Walla Merlot WA $10 (13.5% ABV) Fat ripe candy-like aromas open up with ample juicy soft balanced fruit feel on the palate. The Eastern Washington sun certainly shined brightly on these grapes. My score 84 points, group score 89 points, fourth place.
2017 Wild Haven Horse Heaven Hills Columbia Valley Reserve Merlot WA $14 (13.9% ABV) Interestingly enough, even though this wine was not the highest ranked, it was the first to disappear which is always a good indicator that it pairs well with food and doesn’t draw attention to itself. I felt it displayed the sort of clean fresh fruit purity and fine texture that stylistically speaking, would remind me of a nice European wine. The finish offered ample yet very silky tannin. My score 88 points, group score 86 points, sixth place.
2014 Corley Family Vineyard Monticello Vineyard Napa Valley Merlot CA $32 (14.2% ABV) This gorgeous wine fills the nose with stunningly exotic floral scents for which I have few adjectives. Everywhere in this wine is a sensory overload of compelling perfumes and textures. My score 96 points, group score 93 points second place.
2015 Charles Krug Napa Valley Merlot (89% Merlot / 7% Petite Verdot / 3% Cabernet Sauvignon / 1% Malbec) CA $21 (14.7% ABV) My dear wife took a sip and looked over at me saying “there’s a lot going on here”. Indeed! Rarely at a loss for words, I find its profound incense-like perfumed exotic fruit flows and smells like nothing I’ve ever tasted. I was spell bound! The relentless sensory bombardment cannot be recognized, categorized or anticipated. It just is!! I rarely use the word “unique”, yet, here it emphatically applies. My score 100 points, group score 98 points, first place.
Just as an afterthought, tasting the Charles Krug Merlot is the second time in as many years that I’ve tasted a wine which offered me smells and tastes which I had never experienced before. The last such wine was a Sonoita Vineyard Malbec from Arizona. The Corley Family Merlot starts to touch that category too.
Enjoy in Good Health,
Brian Cain, the Michigan Vintner