Wine | Swanson 2013 Merlot: Cheers to beaucoup winemaking
In a fitting beginning to Robin Akhurst’s full-time career with Swanson Vineyards, their 2013-2014 Merlots will surely be superior values. Robin’s expertise in creating internationally inspired wines has provided an excellent foundation for a leadership position throughout his coming years with Swanson Vineyards.
This change from Swanson’s previous winemaker (Chris Phelps) makes organizing a vertical tasting of several of Swanson’s recent vintages worth the time to set up. Especially because style changes accentuate the differences in each vintage’s growing conditions, in addition to variations in winemaking techniques.
No worries, pulling together a vertical may be easier than you think; while they have recently released the 2013 Merlot, it is still possible to pick up some of the older vintages in one or two stops. Our Phoenix area AJs still has some of the 2011 in stock and may also have the 2012 as well. Haven’t seen the 2013’s on the shelves yet, but AJs can order it if you ask. Pricing is in the mid-$30’s.
Also, if you’re into the “classic Napa” wine characteristics that were exhibited so prominently in 2001, 2005, and 2008, Swanson’s 2012 Merlot had just about all of it. This makes the 2013 vintage an even more interesting contrast with the 2012.
Pulling up a glass of Swanson’s 2013 Merlot yields a bouquet of plum, nutmeg, clove, and ripe cherry that are simply enchanting. And it doesn’t stop there. This puppy follows through on the mid-palate with more depth in dark cherry and spice. Then it adds in a bit of bitter on the finish (paired with grilled steak is perfect). The acidity is pushed back so that it accents the enjoyment of lingering soft & plush tannins, more than you would expect in a Merlot.
Note that this is a full-bodied Oakville Merlot that some will mistake for Cabernet Sauvignon. Napa is quite known for this style and it is a shame that so many wineries use Merlot just for blending. Fortunately, this has not been the case for Swanson (at least for vintages prior to 2014), because Robin continues their tradition of Merlot excellence.
Another thing that is happening with Napa’s 2013 red wines (as with the 2012’s) is that the alcohol is already integrating very well. This keeps them from overpowering things when serving with food, even when opened relatively young.