Napa Merlot worth trying – Bommarito Merlot Napa Valley 2012 by Whitehall Lane

While contemplating the famous anti-merlot statements in the movie ‘SIDEWAYS’, my enthusiast friends and I reiterated our belief that Merlot got a bad wrap in that movie scene.   To be fair to those who cheered when the line was delivered, we recognize that Merlot as a varietal became hugely popular through the 1990s, which led to over planting and over production of the California favorite and too much mediocre, over-ripe, too-sweet Merlots.   But does this mean Merlot is ‘bad’?  Of course not – some of the world’s most famous wines are Merlot-based – has anyone priced a Chateau Petrus lately? For those of us who cannot afford the world’s most sought after Bordeaux wines, we are still quite fortunate to have access to perfectly tasty Merlot wines that no one would (or should) be embarrassed to order!

One such wine is the Bommarito Merlot Napa Valley 2012.   Famous Napa producer Whitehall Lane created this wine (named after the historic Bommarito Vineyard in Rutherford) from Napa Valley sourced grapes during the high volume and equally high quality 2012 vintage.   Despite the affordable $14 pricetag, this wine delivers aromas of cherry and oak on the nose, and a big, rich, ripe, mouthful of dark berries and (common Merlot trademark) blueberry flavors ending in a not-too-tannic finish that is quite pleasing.   Of note, even though fruit is huge in this wine, at no point is this Merlot too sweet or over-oaked in its assembly.   Overall this wine delivers what Napa reds are famous for, at a price far below most quality Napa wines – so we consumers owe it to ourselves to give it a try!   Try it with hard cheeses and grilled meats, I certainly will!

(Bommarito Merlot Napa Valley 2012 by Whitehall Lane PLCB Code 33389 $13.99)

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Wine events this week 21Mar11…

Kathryn Hall bottle signing – Tuesday 4-6pm East Side Wine & Spirits Store (Penn Circle South near Whole Foods)   If you are a fan of California Wines (I am) – here is an opportunity to meet Kathryn Hall, proprietor of Hall Wines (, who will be conducting a bottle signing & wine tasting at the Penn Circle Wine & Spirits store.  A limited number of HALL Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, which garnered #18 on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2010, will be available for purchase ($39.99) and signing.   These wines are highly sought after – so this may be the only opportunity we have to get them AND meet the winery owner! 

Tuesday Tasting 530-730p Braddock’s (Renaissance downtown Pgh)   $5 per glass – incredible value! (look’em up if you want!)   White – Codorniu Brut NV (Spanish Sparkler we’ve tasted before and enjoyed!)   Red – Beringer, Knights Valley Cabernet from the stunning 2007 Vintage      (don’t forget to try the $7 Lobster Gnocci!)

Wednesday Stateline Fine Wine (Weirton WV) 7pm – The Rhone Report with Greg and Dave    –    Just a few months ago Kate and I and our friends Manny and Debra enjoyed a few days in France’s Rhone Valley…   But Dave DeSimone (the Trib Review Wine writer) was in the Rhone only a few weeks ago and he tasted a HUGE number of wines so that he could come back and let us in on the upcoming releases of Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and more  – Plus, Greg Godels is Western PA’s legendary French wine importer who will share his vast knowledge as you taste and experience some fine Rhone Wines!    Incredible value at $15.00/person – please call or email to rsvp Martha Shaver, Proprietaire  Stateline Fine Wine  Store phone number is: 1.304.723.45813520 Pennsylvania Avenue Weirton, WV 26062-4028

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT:   Squonk Opera “Mayhem and Majesty” Exclusive Preview Party Wednesday March 30 6-8pm.     If you haven’t already heard – there is an exclusive preview party for Squonk’s new show “Mayhem and Majesty” at the New Hazlett Theatre – – only a limited number of tickets will be sold to experience “Behind the Mayhem” including discussion with the musicians ON STAGE to see how everything happens then have a reception with the Squonk crew – VERY cool opportunity AND Kate and I donated wine for the event too (whole party is only $20 per person) – details and tickets available

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Tuesday Tasting at Braddock’s 15Mar11

Just a quick note about this week’s Tuesday Tasting at Braddock’s (  – we have two high quality Californian wines to taste at a fantastically priced $5 per glass – hope to see you there!

White:    Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay 2008

Red:     Honig Napa Cabernet 2006

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Two wines for Jack’s Tuesday November 2nd Tasting at Braddock’s

Below are two wines that will be featured by-the-glass at next week’s Braddock’s American Brasserie Tuesday Tasting (located at the Renaissance Hotel downtown Pittsburgh).  I will review and discuss two wines every Tuesday – all people and opinions are welcome – should be fun!

The Murphy Goode Sonoma Chardonnay is a rich gold color with a nose that includes typical chardonnay aromas of apple and pear.  The wine’s development occurs partly in stainless steel tanks (to retain freshness in the wine) with the remainder in French and American oak barrels (to add complexity and oak notes).   A percentage of this California chardonnay undergoes malolactic fermentation which adds weight to the texture and as a result, compared to many other whites, this wine is somewhat richer.  The wine is full of baked apple pie, peach and pear flavors, followed by an oaky/vanilla finish with a hint of minerality.  Overall Murhpy Goode’s efforts result in a fine example of modern California Chardonnay.

The 2005 Chateau Les Reuilles Bordeaux red represents a good example of affordable Bordeaux table wine.  Cabernet is the dominant grape (75%) in this wine with Merlot filling out the remainder of the blend – a characteristic blend associated with the left bank of the Bordeaux wine region.   The color is ruby red and the nose shows a very light, perfumed aroma.  While high dollar 2005 Bordeaux reds require that you wait several more years to drink, this wine needs no more time to mature and is ready to drink now.   The wine is light to medium bodied, which is quite light for those who are mainly familiar with Napa Cabernets or Australian Shiraz – but along with the lighter body, the flavors are clean, fresh and very nicely balanced.  The finish has some grip that will make this wine a good food companion.  A nice wine for the category.

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