Swanson Vineyards 2004 Estate Merlot

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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.

  • Björn

    I know that in some countries you can call a wine by the name of the grape that is most prevalent, but my question is: is this a blend or a Merlot?
    I mean, you say that it's “primarily Merlot,” but to me a Merlot is 100% Merlot. Even Pétrus is not a Merlot, it's a Pomerol, and it contains 95% of Merlot most of the time.
    And yes, I am sure that many, even in Europe, (think of the incompetence of “famous” jurymembers, soon to be seen in a movie) would mistake something containing Syrah for being a Bordeaux, but I don't buy that.
    I mean, I could have understood it if it would have been Malbec, but that is originally a Bordelais grape.
    I'm sure that the wine is wonderful and I will try it if I can find it over here, and keep this review in the back of my mind, so I thank you for the review!
    Have a great day!

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com jpower

      In the US we tend to call a wine by the variety of grape that makes up the majority of the juice. That is where I am from, where the wine is from, and where I drank it, so that's how it should be labeled. If I were drinking a French or Italian wine I would use their conventions. Pretty standard,actually.

  • Björn

    I know that, Joe, and to each his own, long live freedom!
    I just don't go for the “We do it like this over here, it's not really accurate, but we just do it like this over here. These are our conventions, leave us alone” attitude. That's the reason why some countries are still in the middle-ages.
    Anywho, no need for a pointless discussion. You are absolutely right, Joe, have a nice day!

  • Björn

    I know that, Joe, and to each his own, long live freedom!
    I just don't go for the “We do it like this over here, it's not really accurate, but we just do it like this over here. These are our conventions, leave us alone” attitude. That's the reason why some countries are still in the middle-ages.
    Anywho, no need for a pointless discussion. You are absolutely right, Joe, have a nice day!

  • Björn

    I know that, Joe, and to each his own, long live freedom!
    I just don't go for the “We do it like this over here, it's not really accurate, but we just do it like this over here. These are our conventions, leave us alone” attitude. That's the reason why some countries are still in the middle-ages.
    Anywho, no need for a pointless discussion. You are absolutely right, Joe, have a nice day!