Sticking up for merlot.

May 4 2005 4:39 PM

Defending Merlot

It's not always bad.

(Continued from Page 1)

Duckhorn Merlot 2002 (California)  $49
A brooding shade of purple and a brooding, ungenerous nose to match. A dense, chewy texture and quite spicy. But this wine is way too sweet for my taste.

Pride Mountain Vineyards Merlot 2002 (California)  $49
Vanilla, toasted oak, and licorice aromas, along with a pronounced liquored note. Another cloyingly sweet merlot—verging on portlike, in fact. A serious question: Is this meant to be drunk with food or just on its own?

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The Washington Merlots

Andrew Will Ciel du Cheval 1999 (Washington)  $60
Scents of plums, cherries, herbs, and espresso. Full-bodied, with ripe plums and cherries in the mouth. Excellent balance, good finesse.

Andrew Will Klipsun Merlot 1997 (Washington)  $60
Woodsy, briary aromas, along with some chocolate, mint, and a hint of tar. Creamy, lush, and quite spicy, with a discernable mocha note. Aging very nicely.

Januik Klipsun Vineyard Merlot 2002 (Washington)  $40
The same vineyard as the Andrew Will Klipsun, but not as good a wine. A strong dill note dominates the bouquet, with some creamy red fruit lurking in the background. A pleasant enough wine, but there is a hollowness across the palate, and the dill note persists, unfortunately, right through the finish.

Januik Columbia Valley Merlot 2002 (Washington)  $25
Cranberry, wood, tomato skin, and truffle aromas, along with a touch of spiciness. Fleshy and round, with cherry flavors and a slight medicinal edge to the fruit (but not at all off-putting). Not particularly complex, but more than welcome in my glass.

The Long Island Merlot

Lenz Estate Selection Merlot 2000 (Long Island)  $23
Very smoky nose, with blackberries, kirsch, black pepper, and some chalk lurking in the background. Pleasantly tart in the mouth, with good concentration. Fairly tannic. A leaner style of merlot, which is a nice departure from the norm; it would be good with food.