Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - March 12, 2010

Nose to glass

'Diwine' intervention

By Don Colman

Merlot, poor merlot. Right now, this might be the most unwanted wine in the land. Fortunately, the "bad rap" is unwarranted. Grapes, like clothes and music, go in and out of style and right now, merlot is completely out of style. Why these fads happen is anyone's guess, but unlike leather ties, this is a fad that will come back.

Unfortunately, I follow the trends, too. I have drifted away from merlot andhave become attracted to other grapes. It had been months, perhaps even a year, since I sat down with a glass of merlot. I can't tell you what made me reach for it this time -- call it "diwine" intervention, but am I glad I did. The 2007 Blackstone Merlot, at only $12 a bottle, is a down right steal. When I sit down to review a wine, I check for three things.

First is the look of the wine. This wine is a deep red, with very little residue giving a clear finish. Although this does not guarantee quality in wine, it does indicate clean filtering and is appealing to the eye.

Second is the smell, my favorite part of any wine. This is where you prepare your taste buds for what they are about to experience. As with many Californian wines, this is a fruit-forward wine with odors of nut fruits (plums, cherries, etc.) being most prevalent. In addition, there is a hint of oak that comes through providing this wine with some needed complexity.

Third is the actual taste of the wine. I am of the school of thought that most of the flavors are sensed during the smelling of the wine. The taste of the wine tells me two things. First is where you sense wine on your tongue. The front of the tongue is sweet, sides are bitter and the back is sour. In this case it was a sweet taste followed with a touch of bitterness. The second part of the taste is looking for tannins, which come from the skin of the grapes. The longer the juice stays in contact with the skins, the greater the tannin feel to the wine. I call this the "chewiness" of the wine. In this case, the wine has a very soft and silky feel, meaning it is light on the tannins.

When you put all of these things together, you end up with a high quality, easy to drink, reasonably priced wine. In matching this to food, I would aim for everyday type food -- spaghetti and meat balls, burgers, pizza, etc.

If merlot was in style, you would see this wine selling for $5 to $10 more. Just like it is smart to buy an umbrella when it is sunny, now is a great time to buy a merlot.

Until next time, cheers!

Don Colman lives in the East Bay and writes a wine blog at


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