Location: Columbia Valley, Washington
Owners: Rob Griffin and Deborah Barnard
Winemaker: Rob Griffin
Approximate Retail Price: $18
Color: Bright reflection and translucent with very dark garnet hues
Aroma: Luxardo cherries, currants, dark cocoa and cedar
Taste: Tannic, with ripe fruit mixed with smoked meat, and mouthwatering acidity
For an exceedingly long time, merlot seemingly ranked as the most popular wine among non-aficionados who still enjoyed drinking wine. Its popularity led many producers and vineyard owners to replant vines or increase their production of merlot. In turn, mass production and inattention to quality caused many oenophiles’ opinions of it to plunge – and also led to its mockery in the 2004 film Sideways.
In truth, merlot numbers among the most delicious, malleable and potentially complex red varietals available. Still the dominant red varietal in Bordeaux, France, merlot, when farmed well and vinified with care, can produce some of the most graceful wines worldwide. Depending on its production, it can be soft and delicate or bold and demanding.
In Washington State – where wine-growing areas can be warmer and, during growing season, enjoy up to two more sunlight hours daily than Oregon and California – grapes can be darker, riper and fruitier.
Such a wine can sometimes be called “cab-lovers’ merlot” because of its greater boldness and fuller body.
Barnard Griffin, one of the earliest established wineries in Columbia Valley, makes such a merlot. By no means its signature wine – the winery makes more than 14 different wines – Barnard Griffin’s merlot still merits mention. It makes a perfect gateway for a red wine drinker’s foray back into the vast, wonderful world of this varietal.
Food Pairings: The 2017 Barnard Griffin merlot pairs well with hard cheeses, lamb, venison, Bolognese, shepherd’s pie and mushrooms.
Certified Sommelier Stanley Browne owns Robust Wine Bar in Webster Groves.