Mystery California Merlot 2004 Tasting Notes
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Mystery California Merlot 2004 Tasting Notes

I don't like to pan wine or any other product; these producers work hard, invest money, and don't always get it back. I'm only human, and perhaps my judgment is way off on what may well be an excellent wine. So this Merlot will remain anonymous.

That all said, I really hated this wine. You get some red fruit—cherries and sour cherries, and a hint of red currant—but very little more. While you find some pleasant acidity, the tannins don't seem to work, and the vegetal elements shout “over here” with too much force. It is not over-oaked like so many others, but is average in every other respect. In real life, over a dinner, your second glass will be Pellegrino.

I don't even like the winery's advertising; I wouldn't mention it, except that I believe the flat hyperbole of the ad copy reflects perfectly the flat nothingness of this $14 wine.

We've all heard about the disparaging Merlot remark in the film Sideways (I was forced to sit through the film; it had its moments, but, yes, it was overrated). We also know about the irony involved; the anti-Merlot protagonist is saving a Chateau Cheval Blanc, which is largely Merlot, for a special occasion. There is no real contradiction here; Merlot is a noble grape, but wines like this Mystery Merlot have not used it well. Merlot may be easy to pronounce, it should be easy to drink, but it is too subtle a grape to be easy to produce. This wine shows too much engineering and too little of the art of winemaking.

Verdict: Tastes Like Cement
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food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award


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