Merlot gets its mojo back.

By Ray Isle
April 02, 2020
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For years, Merlot has labored under the aspersion that it is, essentially, deeply uncool. That’s thanks to the 2004 movie Sideways, in which Miles Raymond yells in disgust, “I am NOT drinking any f---ing Merlot!” So is a grape’s fate sealed, apparently.

But the bland, overcropped California Merlots of the 1990s are largely a memory (ditto Sideways, for that matter). Plus, Merlot is responsible for some of the greatest wines in the world, Bordeaux’s Château Pétrus and Tuscany’s Masseto among them. Its inviting dark fruit and velvety tannins are hard to resist; it can make easy-to-love everyday wines as well as ageworthy classics.

The wines below are excellent—and if anyone questions your taste, just reply, “Of course I’m drinking some f---ing Merlot!”

2016 Long Meadow Ranch Napa Valley Merlot ($37)

Long Meadow tends toward a restrained, savory style, making its wines particularly food-friendly. Here, dry-herb notes lift this Merlot’s elegant black currant fruit.

2015 Farella Coombsville Merlot ($45)

The Farella Vineyard is famed for Cabernet Sauvignon, which goes to many top wineries. But seek out this black currant–y, impeccably balanced Merlot from the vineyard’s own label.

2016 Silverado Mt. George Vineyard Coombsville Merlot ($40)

The cool blue fruit flavors—blue plums and blueberries—in this polished Merlot from longtime Napa Valley producer Silverado are supported by firm, sleek tannins.

2016 Ancient Peaks Paso Robles Merlot ($20)

Ancient Peaks’ estate vineyard supplies the grapes for this robust red. Its black plum and soy notes take on a touch of toastiness from oak-barrel aging.

2015 Paloma Napa Valley Merlot ($63)

This wine is on the richer end of the Napa spectrum, with its opulent black fruit and mouth-coating texture. But, for all that, it’s very pretty and surprisingly subtle, too.

2015 Mcintyre Kimberly Vineyards Arroyo Seco ($28)

The floral nose of this Central Coast red gives way to blueberry liqueur and espresso notes gripped by firm 
tannins—open a bottle and grill a big steak.

2017 Barnett Vineyards Spring Mountain District Merlot ($70)

Plush tannins 
surround the brambly cassis fruit in this high-altitude, hillside Merlot, whose flavors seem to last for minutes. It’s a splurge, but it’s worth it.


2016 Rabble Paso Robles Merlot ($25)

This ebullient red channels the warmth and generosity of the Paso Robles climate, yet the tannins come in on the end to give it just enough structure.

2017 Trefethen Oak Knoll District Merlot ($45)

When I tasted this I wrote, “Just what you want Merlot to be.” So: ripe fruit, chewy but not aggressive tannins, and just enough oak to add a sweet spiciness—not too much.