South Okanagan 2009: MERLOT

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Merlot is high on my list of favorite varietals – I’m a big fan of right-bank Bordeaux. Because it’s the most broadly planted red grape here, I figured my palate would be a shoe-in to be praising the merlots. Not so much. Barring a few exceptions, I found them very thin, very heavy-handedly oaked, and lacking complexity. And at a common asking price in the high $20’s to $30, the poor versions of Merlot proved to be some of the worst QPR in the South Okanagan. These are my notes, love them or hate them, from my tasting room visits of the vast majority of wineries in the region. They are ranked in descending order of score.

17 Wines, Mean Score: 84.2 Median Score: 86

2006 La Stella La Stella 92

Bumbleberry pie, baked, prune jam. Low-mid 90s – 93 Bloody awesome. Strawberry, tannic, dark finish, heavy. A monster of a wine, and shockingly so for this region. Interesting that they set out to make this in this price point, and seem to have achieved their goal. I’d never buy it at that price, but it likely would cellar a treat. I’m keen to follow this one.

2006 Fairview Cellars Madcap Red 91

Although a merlot blend, it would be a shame to exclude this wine from the merlot list. Super PURE red fruits, and no oak whallop typical of the region. Clearly a different class. Medium concentration, touch of pepper. Rich, fruity, tannic, and dry. Nice structure without being ridiculous. Very, very nice. The purity of fruit puts this into the 90+ territory immediately.

2006 La Stella Allegreto Merlot 89

Wood. Tight. Intersted to try in 5 years. High 80s? Shut down, nice structure, nice tannins, lack of fruit – those that are there are cooked in style. 2005 Bordeaux-esque. Really closed, suggesting cool plummy fruits, but tucked in hard. 90+. 2nd pour, more fruit showed up in general. I’m REALLY curious to see where these people takes these wines moving forward. At $38, I’ve purchased some solid Bordeaux for less.

2007 Burrowing Owl Merlot 89

Very nice fruits, dynamic – 3 different vibes in 3 sniffs. Plum, wood. Fine tannin. Solid. Very nice. Mid-palate suppleness only issue. Like the fruit, like the tannin.

2008 Hester Creek Merlot 88

Stink. But good. Clearly articulated. Spice, evergreen. Concentrated, funk evergreen, odd but round and good. Good – funky, intense merlot. Big marks for intense, big marks for cool funk.

2007 Road 13 Merlot 87

Really obvious fruit, then juniperesque wood. Very nice and pleasant. Lacking the intangible to make it a memorable wine, but certainly is a solid effort. Solid, very nice fruit on the nose, but a tad forgettable for some reason.

2006 NKMip Merlot 87

Classic Okanagan with serious bead of strawberry, no oak smash. Strawberry, light, VERY reminiscent of a good beaujolais – which is odd. Slick oak tucked behind nicely. Dig the strawberry, the beaujolais vibe was striking. Not a bad value at $20.

2005 Hester Creek Reserve Merlot 87

Graphity mineral. Very nice. Stylish.

Raspberry – super intense, very good, but not my thing really. More stlyed than the non-reserve. Quick and dry finish – disappointingly so. Thin. Loved the mineral nose, hated on the texture and finish. Aging? This one?

2005 Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Merlot 86

Tight, light cassis, nice, but forgettable. Neat spicy texture, lack of mid palate as normal, very dry, but very sleek. Interesting finish. Lacks fruit intensity, either shut down or it’s already too old, which would be shocking. Watery, typical Okanagan structure.

2007 Twisted Tree Merlot 86

Ashtray – in a not-good way. Fruit, pepper. Present and stylish. Cherry, light dry. Very stylish for this area’s merlot. Misses the mark for me. Nice. It’s good. But not as good and compelling as the other reds here. For that reason, not as good a QPR as the others.

2006 Tinhorn Creek Merlot 2006 85

Insta-sexy, but then a whallop of oak, oak, oak. Dry, oaky, stylistically not for me, but a well made wine. Oak, dry, thin – classic Okanagan merlot apparently. Really dry finish and a long one at that.

2006 Inniskillin Merlot 85

Cologne? Lovely rich raspberry, wood/stem. Really nice, dry. Lacks concentration but otherwise like the fruit and oak. Half the price of some of the other merlots around, and quite good.

2007 Cassini Cellars Merlot 83

Veggie nose! Aromatically challenged though. Rosy floral and interesting. Dry. Not super oaky. Super extracted. Might get a considerably better score if it wasn’t served in the worst glassware I can imagine.

2007 Oliver Twist Proprietor’s Reserve Merlot 80

Black licorice, in an intensity and focus that I’ve never seen before. Ever. Evergreens in the highs. Concentrated anise, with a SUPER dry finish that would put most people off. Awkward as hell wine – esp for a merlot??

2007 Oliver Twist Merlot 76

Oak. Nice fruit, but a little to tight. Aromatically challenged. Not a fan of structure Average at best, terrible QPR.

Gehringer Brothers Dry Rock Merlot 72

Little odd. Raspberry syrup tucked in. No oak over the head, thankfully. Average.

2006 Antelope Ridge Merlot 68

Flat. Dry, tannic, mouth stripping. Okay otherwise, typical, but in a med more generic style. Below average, poor aromatics on nose.

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