Wine | Merlots: Comparing a Couple 2014 Goodies
The 2014 western states vintage was a big one, for big wines with a mouth-filling expression of lusciousness. This is especially true with the red wines, many of which are so big that they must be aged more to reach their prime.
In the meantime, we have been savoring a few 2014 red wines from the lighter side, namely the Merlots. In fact, quite a few 2014 Merlots could be mistaken for Cabernets in a blind tasting. They are that big.
There are a couple that stand out in this category, big, bold, but still elegant. They are from totally different regions (Walla Walla and Napa) but from wineries that are known for mid-priced, yet classy, Merlots.
The first is from L’Ecole (French for “The School”). Sourced from vineyards that traditionally produce outstanding Merlots, their 2014 (about $30) is quite refined but in a restrained way that makes it quite drinkable right now.
It begins with a bouquet of deep ripe cherries with a slight earthy character that is all about Walla Walla. In the mouth it is a little spicy at first and then becomes softly savory with enough acid backbone to carry the finish nicely to spice then vanilla. Roast chicken was the perfect pair, but it also worked with Marinara pasta, go figure.
Then there is the second. It is produced by Grgich Hills under the influence of a master wine maker (Miljenko “Mike” Grgich). Mike knows as well as anyone in the wine industry what it takes to compete with French Bordeaux wines. Their 2014 (about $35) was a bit of a surprise, especially on the bouquet.
It opens with just a little tobacco that slowly gives way to a dark spicy intrigue before revealing that character of cassis that so typifies Napa. It increases its elegance with a taste of nicely-balanced restrained fruit, soft tannins, and an acid balance; the acidity pulling against the tannins effectively. It seems just a little bigger than the L’Ecole, making it a better beef pairing partner.
In comparison, both are excellent for the price and it really seems that the preferred one simply comes down to individual choice. They are different, but in a personal kind of way, making them perfect for a simple wine tasting served with the question, “Which do you like the best?”. After all, in spite of what you may have heard, Merlots are not all the same, no way.
These both serve well ever so slightly chilled.