We ONLY drink Merlot!

Merlot. What can we say about Merlot? A lot of things really. It first shows up in records in Bordeaux in the late 18th century. Genetic analysis has shown that it is a child of Cabernet Franc, making it a half-sibling of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Carménère. Its other parent is an obscure variety that didn't even have an official name until it was discovered to be related to Merlot. As the most widely planted of the five primary Bordeaux varietals, it is the backbone of most modern Bordeaux. From Bordeaux, it has spread to become the second-most widely-planted varietal in the world.

In the US, Merlot helped put Washington State on the map as a wine-producing region, and it has long been a staple of California winemaking as well. In the 1990s, it enjoyed a period of increasing popularity, due in part to the perceived health benefits of red wine, and its relative affordability (especially when compared with a lot of Cali Cabernet). Its place as a staple of an American winemakers and consumers was assured, until it all came crashing down in 2004 with the delivery of a single line by Paul Giamatti in the move Sideways. People stopped drinking Merlot, vines were torn up, and Pinot Noir was planted in its stead, and Merlot's reputation has never recovered.

Well, not quite. It's a fun story, and there is some truth to it, but the outlook for Merlot is not as dire as the fable makes it out to be. Yes, there was a measurable drop in demand for Merlot after Sideways came out, and yes, the total acreage planted with Merlot did shrink, while the total acreage planted with Pinot Noir did increase. But, as with all such stories, the reality is more complicated, and the story is really more one of Pinot's rise than Merlot's fall. Suffice to say, that there is still plenty of great Merlot made in the US and the rest of the world, and this week, we're going to open some of it for you to taste and learn more about this noble grape.

Join us at the tasting bar on Wednesday, January 24, from 4pm to 7pm to taste six excellent and interesting examples of Merlot from around the world.

Tickets for our regular Wednesday tastings are $15, and the wines in the lineup are all 10% off during the tasting.