Gallo Family Vineyards Sonoma Reserve Merlot 2005
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Gallo Family Vineyards Sonoma Reserve Merlot 2005 Tasting Notes

Merlot has had its ups and downs on the market, but it is undeniably one of the great international grapes. In some ways, it is up to the vine grower to ruin a Merlot by producing too much of the grape or planting the Merlot in inappropriate soils or climate areas. That said, a winemaker can also ruin a merlot by overdoing the residual sugar, the oaking, or both. There was a time a few years ago when it didn't quite matter, since the public clamored for the easy-to-pronounce red beverage. Those days are history now; the result, I am happy to say, is less Merlot, and hence better Merlot.

The $15 Gallo Family Vineyards Sonoma Reserve Merlot brings together all the elements a successful wine of this type demands. The mouthfeel is substantial and yet balanced. I mention the mouthfeel first, because the other elements—the look and aroma of the wine—seem to lead up to it. The wine is a deep yet transparent ruby. The nose puts you into a pastry shop, offering jammy versions of cherry and strawberry, with coconut, vanilla and clove.

This wine has moderate acidity and is tangibly dry, though with all the ripe fruit you get you might be fooled into a sugar reaction. Blackberry, black plum and black cherry meld with walnut and chocolate to keep you in that pastry shop, but move you over to the confectionary department. As to the finish, I think it worthwhile to reproduce my exact tasting notes verbatim: “sophisticated bitter chocolate, concentrated black cherry jam, drying tannin grip on finish.” The tannins on this wine, in fact, are a nice touch; they seem to chime in on the finish just when you start to wonder where they might have been hiding; the end result is that they sustain the enjoyment of the fruit.

Verdict: Delicious
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Merlot may appear to be easy for English speakers to pronounce, but the best Merlots are also easy to enjoy.

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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