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NorCal Wine Blog

Two Very Good, But Very Different, Bottles of Merlot

The appearance of the 2007 Rubicon Estate Merlot foreshadows its character. Ruby in color but completely opaque, it is a very rich Merlot with seductive aromas of blackberry, black currant, vanilla and spice.

Merlot is typically thought of as plush, but only softly tannic, in comparison to Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2007 from Rubicon Estate isn’t 100% Merlot though, and it’s not softly tannic. Whereas a a few drops of Syrah helped the wine achieve its depth of color, a more generous portion of Cabernet Sauvignon contributed, among other things, a substantial amount of dusty Rutherford tannins. Full-bodied and creamy, even opulent, the wine needed those tannins to avoid being syrupy. The tannins also provide a strong framework for the deeply layered flavors of dark cocoa and chocolate, plum, concentrated black fruit, kirsch and mulberry.

Rubicon’s 2007 Merlot is very good. Its strength and luxurious texture limit the foods with which it will pair well though. Braised meat is the way to go. Fork-tender short ribs or lamb shank with a velvety sauce would work, as would beef cheeks. Drink now through 2020. Highly recommended.


2007 Rubicon Estate Merlot, Rutherford, Napa Valley
Rating: Highly Recommended
Drink: Now through 2020

Retail Price: $46
Blend: 91% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Syrah

Aging: 14 months - 70% French oak, 30% American (30% new)

Alcohol: 14.5%

Closure: Cork


The grapes for the 2006 Darcie Kent Crown Block Merlot came from their estate vineyard on Crane Ridge in southeastern Livermore Valley. The vines are at the top of a hill, at about 800 feet, where the soil is thin and drains very well. The hand-picked grapes got a cold soak for color and then went into a long cool, open top fermentation with punch downs. A basket press was used for gentle extraction of the juice.

The wine echoes the traditional winemaking techniques and its loyalty to terroir. The Darcie Kent Vineyards Merlot is dark ruby in the glass with prominent aromas of black cherry, coffee and dark chocolate against a subtle background of earth and spice. The body is medium plus with grainy tannins providing good structure. There is more black cherry, coffee and dark chocolate on the palate, along with briary blackberry, kirsch and a hint of smoke.

With alcohol under 14%, fruit that is tasty but not exuberant, and tannins that are just a bit rustic, the 2006 Darcie Kent Merlot will go well with the range of foods normally associated with good Merlot. Grilled leg of lamb would be a great, but a juicy burger will work very well too. Drink now through 2016. Highly recommended.


2006 Darcie Kent Vineyards Merlot, Crown Block, Livermore Valley
Rating: Highly Recommended
Drink: Now through 2016

Retail Price: $35
Blend: Merlot

Aging: 18 months, 100% French oak
Alcohol: 13.9%

Closure: Cork

The Rubicon Merlot was purchased for the review. The Darcie Kent was received as a winery sample.

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This article is original to Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

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