Merlot Smackdown! 10 Wines Blind-Tasted!

The August gathering of the Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club featured a rooftop tasting in Oakland at the home of Blago and Luiza.  It’s the first time our wine tasting club, which was started in 2010, gathered for a blind tasting outside of our community.  And it was big fun!

Here’s how it went down…

  • We ask each individual (or couple) to bring a bottle of Merlot that costs between $15-$25, along with a dish should pair well with Merlot.
  • The first ten bottles of wine were used for the blind tasting.  The other’s bottles (there were probably 15-18 bottles total) are consumed either before the tasting or after
  • We generally spend the first hour or so socializing and eating the dishes brought
  • There were 18 tasters who agreed participate in the tasting by scoring all the wines
  • After the scores were compiled, the winner was determined by using the median score, which eliminates outlying low and high scores.
  • We had a diverse selection of Merlot with wines from Napa, Sonoma, Washington State, Santa Clara Valley and Bordeaux!

Hmmm..perhaps 10+ wines was a bit much…especially if you’re not spitting ;-)…

Taster Down

My tasting notes on the wines follow;

  • 2007 Kunde Estate Merlot – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley Dark ruby color with straight-forward cherry, and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and smooth with soft tannins, and cherry, vanilla and bit of spice aromas.
  • 2009 Château Arnauton – France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Contrôlée Garnet color with mixed black and red fruit, graphite, bittersweet chocolate and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, focused, and fruit forward wiht black cherry, cassis, bittersweet chocolate and vanilla flavors.
  • 2010 Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley Dark ruby color with black cherry, black currant, vanilla and a hint of leather aromas. On the palate, it’s fruity and medium-bodied with black cherry, cassis, and vanilla flavors
  • 2010 Chateau St. Jean Merlot California – USA, California Garnet color with cherry, plum, and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, and smooth with straight-forward, but enjoyable cherry, black currant flavors.
  • 2011 Gnarly Head Merlot – USA, California Ruby color with cherry red-fruit, vanilla and dark chocolate aromas. On the palate, it’s medium, with a soft mouthfeel and cherry, red currant, and vanilla flavors.
  • 2009 Rombauer Vineyards Merlot Carneros – USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros Ruby color with black cherry, plum, leather, and a hint of mint aromas. On the palate, it’s deftly balanced fruit, acid, and supple tannins, and shows black cherry, black currant, plum, vanilla flavors. 
  • 2010 Crane Family Merlot Don Raffaele Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley Very dark ruby color with cherry, blueberry, cedarwood, and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and focused with black currant, black cherry, and vanilla flavors 
  • 2011 Raymond Vineyard & Cellar Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley Ruby color with red fruit, leather, and black currant aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with dusty tannins, and cassis, black cherry, and mineral flavors.
  • 2008 Jason Stephens Winery Merlot Estate – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Clara Valley Ruby black color with mixed cherry, vanilla and cedarwood aromas. On the palate it approaches full-bodied, with soft tannins and cherry, and vanilla flavors.

And the winner was… Rombauer

The runners up were as follows  
2010 Chateau St. Jean  California Merlot
2010 Crane Family Merlot
2011 Gnarly Head Merlot
2008 Jason Stephens Merlot Santa Clara Valley
2010 Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot Columbia Valley
2011 Raymond Merlot
2009 Chateau Arnauton Fronsac
2007 Sebastiani Merlot Sonoma Coast
2007 Kunde Merlot Sonoma Valley

There’s almost always a surprise or two when one does a blind tasting.  In this case, the fact that the most expensive wine was the winner was a bit of a surprise given the fact that many of the tasters were not regular wine drinkers. In fact, most were your typical folks who enjoy wine occasionally, but don’t drink it regularly for one reason or another.

Merlot Number 2 a

The other surprise was the second place wine from Chateau St. Jean. It finished just one-half a point behind the winner and can be found for about $10, and is a very good value.

Rooftop Tasting Merlot

It was a fabulous tasting full of good friends (old and new) plenty of good eats, and very good Merlot.  In other words, the stuff from which good memories are made…