All posts by Wilfred Wong

Wake up and taste the Tempranillo

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For decades, Spanish wines were second class citizens among top wine growing regions in the world. Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, the Rhône Valley were the gold standard. All French appellations and all revered. The Spaniards, were not new to the party, they just never got the respect that they deserved. But some of it was their doing. Rioja and Ribera del Duero, two long-standing regions, simply never really addressed the international community. Rioja, used an incredible amount of American oak, one would have thought that coconut and dill were primary wine flavors.

Then came the 1990’s and top US importers like Jorge Ordonez and Eric Solomon sought out top producers and potential stars on the Iberian Peninsula and transformed this under-appreciated viticultural area and world began to notice. Today, one of Spain’s most notable varietals, Tempranillo, has become très chic amongst the wine cognoscenti. On Thursday, November 13, 2014, our team celebrated International #TempranilloDay and tasted a few of our favorites.

Tempranillo produces a red wine of elegance and style. While much of it is centered on Rioja and Ribera del Duero, the varietal has shown success in California and Argentina. Over the next two decades, Tempranillo will enjoy worldwide fame; the grape is so adaptable, and it is just a matter of time that we will see top offerings from more than just Spain. Seldom too tannic or extracted, this varietal has found great love amongst those who enjoy Pinot Noir and Merlot, an dis perfect for foodies who would like to taste their dishes along with the wine.

Three of my favorites are the fresh and fruity ’12 Palacios Remondo La Vendimia Rioja (50% Garnacha Pais and 50% Tempranillo), the rich, yet fruit-forward ’09 Siglo Crianza Rioja (made from Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Graciano) and the long and delicious ripe fruit, slightly oaked ’10 Vina Hermina Crianza Rioja (85% Tempranillo and 15% Granacha). Celebrate International Tempranillo Day! The varietal has grown by leaps and bounds.

Merlot re-cap: why should we drink Merlot?

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Let’s take Merlot to the party. Whether it is a cast of thousands or just a party of two, Merlot has so much to offer. Let’s begin with a party. #MerlotMe brought us a renewed perspective on the grape. The wine is present yet clearly unobtrusive. Partakers belly up to the bar and say, “Pour me a red and fill-er-up.” In this case, they want a smooth red so that can back to the party. The 2011 Rodney Strong Sonoma County Merlot is one of the industry’s best for these occasions. As an affordable super-premium, the wine fulfills all the highpoints. Easy-to-drink, upscale and super food-friendly, I’ll have a full glass please.

How about for a party of two? Is there a perfect wine, now but I have one that is a no-brainer. Duckhorn Vineyards, one of the highest profiled ultra-premium producers of Merlot, has issued a super 2012 Napa Merlot. Richly layered and succulent, this one takes the varietal to another level. For cozier soirées, this top-of-the-line choice will please neophytes and sophisticates. The former will enjoy the wine that they may have recognized and latter will simply approve the selection.

Merlot grows well in many places of the wine world. On the Right-Bank of Bordeaux, in eastern Washington State, in many spots of the Napa Valley as well as in many other places, merlot takes its place as “The Wine” and while those special viticultural areas take care of the well-heeled crowd, there are even more places doing an excellent job of grown the varietal for everyday enjoyment. Merlot can supply wine drinkers with plenty of fine-drinking wines for a wide variety of occasions. So why do we drink merlot? We drink merlot because they are one of the most dependable reds on the planet.

Merlot: The “M” Wine

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Don’t look at me like that! Just because there is a big “M” on my chest does not mean that I am bad. I wanted to be pure and chaste and loved from afar, but you brought me to too many parties and there I was on a table. foils cut and uncorked. The servers poured me into big goblets and everyone drank me like I was nothing. Wineries through the decades planted me in low quality, high yielding vineyards just so they could make money of my vines. Can you imagine that? My daddy, Cabernet Franc, and my mother, Magdeleine Noire des Charentes, would never have approved. Or would they? Unfortunately it worked; everyone drank me like water and tossed the empties into the recycle bins.

There are over 600,000 acres of Merlot planted in the world. Most of it in France, a great deal in Italy, some in the United States, Australia, Chile and Argentina – I suppose there are Merlot plantings everywhere. Merlot is an important varietal. The grape provides plenty of soft, succulent red wine  that gives winemakers blending options to make their wines better. On the Left Bank of Bordeaux, a little bit of Merlot goes a long way and on the Right Bank, it is king (especially in Pomerol). Yes, I am proud to be Merlot.

October is Merlot month, and in that spirit I am tasting examples from all over the world. Follow the hashtag, #merlotme, on Twitter, and learn more about the excitement that is now surrounding the varietal. It is time to fill your shopping cart with Merlot, the “M” wine! Three of my favorites are: the 2012 Duckhorn Napa Valley, the 2011 Rodney Strong and the 2010 Twomey by Silver Oak. Now please look at me square in the eyes, I am ready to serve you. Your relationship with me may never be the same again.