Is there any varietal more maligned these days than Merlot? It has gone from being trendy to love to being trendy to hate. Even Miles in Sideways exclaims, “No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any ****ing Merlot!” Never mind that his avowed “dream wine,” a 1961 Cheval Blanc, is a Merlot blend.
To me, nothing screams poseur more than someone declaring that they only drink certain varietals or definitively hate other ones. Sure, we all have preferences, and sometimes shy away from wines that we have had too many bad examples of, and yes, I am looking at you Chardonnay, it seems silly to limit yourself.
Especially if it makes you miss out on wines as good as Swanson’s Merlot. This is an exquisite example of just how good Merlot can be. In fact, Merlot is what Swanson is most known for, and with good reason.
This delicious wine is primarily Merlot, but has a little Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, as well. It is as subtly layered and complex as a very high quality Cab, but is just a little softer and drinkable. In fact, if this was placed in front of me in a blind tasting, I would probably guess it to be a very good Bordeaux.
The nose is a marvel of sweet ripe black cherries, warm blackberries, espresso, mocha and a hint of smoke. The complex flavors mirror the nose, but are joined by black currant and lots of black fruit. The mouthfeel is a remarkable blend of silky smooth tannins and just the perfect level of alcohol.
Swanson Vineyards 2004 Estate Merlot has 14.8% alcohol by volume and a quick discussion with Mr. Google shows that it retails for around $30. It is hard to beat that price for a wine of this quality, especially given that Wine Spectator gives it a well deserved 94.