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by Fred McMillin
for February 29, 2000


Mad About Merlot


Prologue

1941—"Merlot is a comparatively unknown variety from the Bordeaux country, which is worth trying in California. Should be good."

...American Wines, Schoonmaker and Marvel

1970—"With 100 acres planted in California's North Coast counties, Merlot may prove to be an astonishing wine.

...Guide to Wines of America, William Massee

1982—"Acreage of Merlot in California has increased to 2,161...[with some vintners] showing that the wine can have the same soft grace and charm as endear it to the winegrowers of St.-Emilion and Pomerol."

...California Wines, Robert Balzer

The meteoric rise of Merlot in California:
Tons of Merlot Crushed
1988 -     7,000
1992 -   37,000
1997 - 202,000


The Rest of the Story

Dr. John Staten A San Jose nurseryman brought the first "Merleau" vines to California in 1852. There was no indication that 130 years later its growth in the state would outpace all its red rivals. Speaking of outpacing red rivals, my panel just tasted a collection of Golden State Merlots and only this one was rated EXCELLENT.


Our Wine of the Day

Staten Family Reserve Merlot, Field Stone Winery, 1997
Vintner—Dr. John Staten (pictured)
Background—Exactly two years ago my tasters tried the first Field Stone Merlot, produced entirely from their own Estate grapes. It was good then, and is even better now. Productionis small, so it's wise to order quickly.
Contact—Dr. Roger Hull, (707) 433-7266, FAX (707) 433-2231
More About Field Stone:
Oct. 8, 1997 WineDay titled, "Dr. Staten in the Lion's Den" and April 22, 1998 WineDay titled, "It Took 20 Years"
Typical Panel Comment: "Now we're talking! Full throttle with great black fruit."
Rating—EXCELLENT
Price—$25 range


Postscript—The Name "Merlot"

There's no argument about the meaning of Merlot. It is "little blackbird." But why did the Bordeaux growers select that name? Jancis Robinson, British Master of Wine, tells us some say the name was selected because it's the grape of choice when blackbirds visit the vineyard. Others say the color of the ripe grapes is a perfect match with the blackbird feathers. Send us any other ideas, and we'll publicize them with full credit.

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 
 


This page created February 2000

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