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For the love of Northwest Merlot
It’s been a decade since a line in a movie sent Merlot into a bit of a tailspin.
While we realize Miles was talking about boring Merlot from some region other than the Pacific Northwest, Sideways did not help the cause of Merlot producers. The irony, of course, is that the 1961 Cheval Blanc that was the prize bottle in Miles’ collection is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot – the two varieties he denigrates during the film.
Merlot often is seen as a lesser grape than other Bordeaux varieties. This is thought to be because Merlot grows well in rich soils, leading to wines of lower quality. But in Washington’s Columbia Valley, the soils are low in nutrition and rarely hold moisture. This causes Merlot to struggle, which forces the plant to focus its efforts on rich, more-concentrated fruit.
In other words, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. In the case of Merlot, the struggle is the reward.
Here are 10 Northwest Merlots we’ve tasted in recent weeks. Seek them out from your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.