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Revenge of the Merlot
filed under: Ramblings,

The geeks did it in Revenge of the Nerds. Straight-legged jeans made their way back into the mainstream just this season. Heck, even carbs are making a comeback. And now California vintners are doing it with Merlot.

You see, Merlot is the new anti-Pinot, the grape that will soon have all of us scratching our heads and saying, "but, I thought I didn't want any fucking Merlot."

Maybe you should re-think that last statement.

If Swanson Vineyards has its way, that's exactly what you'll be doing after they finish their current push to resurrect the struggling variety. With a game plan and website called merlotfightsback.com, Swanson is geared up for a tough fight.

And they just might win it.

Because you see, Merlot can be damn good! Just as is the case with most things that become uber-popular, Merlot suffered from over-production and reduced quality over the past two decades, a sad circumstance for those Cali producers doing it right.

"We're trying to set the record straight on a varietal which has been so misunderstood and maligned," explains Swanson General Manager Stuart Harrison. Along with winemaker Chris Phelps, Harrison has embarked on a nine city tour to re-educate Merlot bashers in the US.

Stops include Miami, Tampa and Orlando in wine-friendly Florida as well as Chicago, New York and New Jersey. West Coast cities on the tour are San Francisco, San Diego and newly wine-centric Las Vegas.

Although indeed much maligned of late, Merlot is one of the classic or "noble" grape varieties of the world. As the Swanson seminar reminds attendees, the bottle Miles, the ultimate Merlot snob, opened on his birthday in Sideways was a '61 Cheval Blanc - made from 50% Merlot. Touche.

But Swanson's not just doing it for love of the grape: Swanson is the largest single producer of estate-grown Merlot in the Napa Valley. And they've got the creds to do it right: Phelps has spent time at Petrus and Caymus, and Harrison's worked at Opus One and Stag's Leap.

Clearly, Swanson takes Merlot seriously.

I wish them the best of luck. I offer the tasting "How Merlot Got Its Groove Back" through my private events company, Your Personal Sommelier, but so far no one's asked for it. Which is a real shame, because it's very hip to be anti-establishment.




Posted by Courtney at