With Merlot Month here this October it seemed a fitting time to finally write about some of my favorite Merlot Wines. This post is just as surprising to me as you as you probably know, I typically adore tasting and writing about Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Champagne, yet recently Merlot has caught my attention and it’s fair to say that now it is one of my favorite varietals. And also so interesting as each one is so so unique, site specific and varies in flavors, complexity and style based on the winemaker, the AVA and so many other winemaking elements.
See some of my favorite Merlot Wines below and as always, if you have any suggestions on what I’m missing or more to try please, send them my way!
Alpha Omega Winery
An incredible Napa Merlot is from the Alpha Omega Winery, the 2015 Napa Valley Merlot ($100). This is a stunning Napa Valley Merlot with fruit selected from Newton Spring Vineyard in Spring Mountain, some of the best Merlot vineyards in Napa Valley. This Merlot is extremely elegant yet showcases deep concentration of fruit and great structure. Those that enjoy a full body, beautifully rich, silky Merlot will adore this Alpha Omega Merlot. Purchase online here.
Blackbird Vineyards Blackmail
Another superb Merlot from Napa Valley I adore is the 2015 Blackbird BlackMail Merlot ($100). Winemaker Aaron Pott describes this best, “The 2015 BlackMail Merlot exudes aromas of dark fruits, vanilla, nutmeg and chocolate on the nose. The back palate showcases flavors of blackberry, plum, eucalyptus, black cherry and tobacco, concluding with an intriguing rich finish”. Purchase online here (if you’re a BlackMail member, as it’s only available to members).
The Chappellett Winery 2018 Merlot is absolutely stunning. It’s extremely elegant being aged for 22 months in French oak barrels (40% new) and also blended with three other Bordeaux Red varietals adding structure and complexity. Read more about Chappellett Winery and their Winemaker Ry Richards here and watch my Instagram Live with Ry Richards on my YouTube Channel here.
Duckhorn Vineyards is making a delicious Merlot from Napa Valley. This merlot has a deep iron taste at first sip, with dark fruit flavors of cherry, raspberry and plum and soft vanilla and clove on the finish. The wine has nice tannins and a silky long texture on the finish. At $56 this is a great value for a Napa Valley Merlot that is easy to drink and something most Merlot lovers will enjoy! Purchase for $56 on Duckhorn here.
I had the pleasure of attending both a dinner with the Ehlers Estate Team and visiting their winery (read more about the fabulous visit here) and fell in love with their Merlot. I seriously never thought those words would come out of my mouth but like anything, with time your palette changes and I think it grows richer. I guess after 6 years of living in California and focusing on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sparkling and a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon I’m ready for something new and it looks like it’s Merlot! Visit their website here to purchase (it may be sold out already sadly) and learn more.
Grgich Hills Estate
Grgich Hills Estate is another stunning Merlot that is primarily from cool climate grapes with a velvety texture. This beautiful wine offers up aroamas of floral rose hip, tangy blood orange and rhubarb with a hint of blackberry, red pepper, and bay leaf. I enjoyed a bottle of this beautiful Grgich HIlls 2018 Estate Grown Merlot while at a fun Mendocino Grove glamping site (glamourous camping). This wine, my YETI and a fire were the perfect pairings! Make sure to get a bottle of this special Merlot here.
J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines
J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines is another honorable mention for their incredible Merlot Wines. On my recent IG Live Event with Jessica Kollhoff, J. Lohr Director of Hospitality/Direct to Consumer Sales, we tasted the absolutly divine 2017 Cuvée Pom Merlot, 2019 Paso Robles Merlot and 2018 El Pomar District Merlot. The 2017 Cuvée Pom Merlot has beautiful aromas of blueberry, marionberry, lilac, and cocoa powder while the 2019 Paso Robles Merlot has aromas of black plum, black currant, and violet are elevated by a light barrel signature of baking spices and toasted pastry. Lastly, the fabulous 2018 Pomar District Merlot displays aromas of pomegranate and raspberry sorbet with notes of graphite, black tea, and toasted pastry from the French oak aging. Purchase the J.Lohr Merlot bundle here.
La Jota Vineyard Co.
La Jota Vineyard Co. is another brand producing another stunning Merlot, also made by Christopher Carpenter. This is made from fruit from Howell Mountain, a vineyard I’ve actually visited with the La Jota Team which is incredible. You feel as if you’re at the top of Napa Valley with rolling vineyards in the most secluded nook of the mountain. Tasting the wine in the vineyard it was grown in added an element to the flavor that’s hard to explain…. The 2015 La Jota Merlot ($85) showcases the mountain terroir with amazing body, dark coffee and chocolate flavors combined with ripe black fruit and a lovely big bold taste on the palate. Purchase the La Jota Merlot here.
A Napa Valley Merlot that I adore comes from Mount Brave. This wine is made by one of the most incredible winemakers in Napa Valley, Christopher Carpenter who also makes Lakoya Wines, Cardinale Wines, La Jota and also Hickinbotham. For those of you who have not been to Lokoya Winery it’s quite possibly the most beautiful and unique settings of any winery I’ve visited in Napa Valley and suggest it to all wine lovers. Read more about Lokoya here and get yourself in there soon and you’ll thank me… The Mt. Brave Merlot may be one of my favorite Merlots on this list as I’d describe it as a Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers Merlot. It’s super rich in flavor with dark fruit expressions, an extremely full body texture with incredible tannins and that big mountain fruit taste. The terroir of Mt. Veeder is evident on the tongue of this rich, delicious 2015 Mount Brave Merlot ($80)Merlot that will melt in your mouth. Purchase Mount Brave Merlot here.
Peju Winery is another fabulous spot that offers up beautiful Merlot wines. I recently had a wonderful Merlot Month Instagram Live (Which you can watch here) with Owner Lisa Peju and Winemaker Sara Fowler. Their 2017 Merlot and 2018 Vintage Merlot are complex and beautiful. The 2017 Merlot has notes of cherry, cranberry, and cola while the 2018 Vintage Merlot has bright flavors including dried cherries, raspberries, white pepper and savory notes. You can get both of these Merlot’s on the Peju website in their fabulous Merlot Lovers kit here.
The Provenance Brand was a brand I wasn’t familiar with until tasting their 2015 Napa Valley Merlot ($75) and I quickly fell in love. This Merlot has very deep flavors with a super elegant smooth texture. It also opened up quite a bit, so I’d recommend decantering this or opening it, having a glass then seeing how it evolves for your second glass. This is for sure a beautiful Merlot anyone who enjoys a rich, bold, yet super smooth and soft textured Merlot will adore. Purchase online here.
Rombauer Vineyards is another stand up winery that has a fabulous seleciton of wine and I had to highlight their stunning 2018 Napa Valley Merlot which was actually just named as one of the Best Wines of Autumn by Forbes. The wine comforts the palate with complex aromas of black cherry, ripe plum, and mocha intertwine with subtle notes of violet and mint. Such a beautiful wine that you should definitely try. Make sure to buy it here.
Smith Devereux Winery
Smith Devereux Winery is another spot that has the most fabulous Merlot. The Smith Devereux single-vineyard Merlot is a stunning blend grown in their aware winning IBEX vineyard in St. Helena. This merlot is sustainably farmed and hand-harvested at the base of Spring Mountain and has notes of Blackberry, Dark Raspberry, Chocolate, Leather, Tobacco, and Soft Black Pepper. Buy the single-vineyard wine as there are only a few bottles left here. Oh and a fun fact, they also make this in a can with Maker Wines which is another Merlot I adore!
The Merlot was my favorite wine when I visited Skipstone Winery recently. I rarely get to enjoy such well-made, balanced and rich-tasting Merlot Wine. Read about my visit to Skipstone Winery and Wine Tasting here.
As you know I adore St. Supery. One of my first harvests was with them which you can read about here. They make a stunning Merlot that has deep shades of reds and purples. It’s made from a single vineyard and offers aromas of black cherry and black plum combine with raspberry, mocha and a hint of vanillin extract. Flavors of black plum, fresh raspberry pair with mocha in a toasted oak. This will age extremely well if you can resist enjoying it now!
Australian Merlot Wines
I have had the chance to taste Hickinbotham’s stunning Australian Merlot a few times and each time I fall more in love… With a 92 point score from Wine Advocate no wonder it’s hard to find and purchase (per the website, limited availability, contact the estate to acquire at 1-844-747-4327 with a limit of 6 bottles per customer). This stunning Merlot is beyond elegant with bright dark fruit flavors, bold taste and rich tannins. On the noise are aromas of red currant, dark fruit such as black cherry with a bold tanning structure yet silky and stunning texture. This is approachable and very enjoyable now (trust me, we devoured the bottle), yet also something if you age will get even more fabulous. Learn more at Hickinbotham Wines here.
Chilean Merlot Wines
A fabulous Chilean Merlot I recently had the pleasure of tasting was The Alcance Grand Merlot from Alcance Wines. This was very delicious Merlot with bold rich flavors I loved, extremely smooth and silky in texture which was beautiful. I also tasted through quite a bit of the Alcance Wines and enjoyed them all. So if you’re looking for something outside of California check out Alcance Wines and be sure to taste this incredible Merlot. More information on Alcance Wines online here.
This Chilean brand, Odfjell which makes biodynamic and organic wines is producing some beautiful wines, especially this Merlot which I adored. I had the chance to taste quite a few of their wines and meet winemaker Arnaud Hereu and was blown away. Not only by their smooth, elegant, lovely wines but the fact that they’re biodynamic, from Chile and most wines are in the $15 – $35 range. Incredible! This is a brand to explore if looking for something new to try that is high quality, well priced and delicious! More about this Armador Merlot (approx. $10) online here.
Santa Barbara & Paso Robles Merlot Wines
Lucas & Lewellen
Another fun Merlot I thought I’d share is from one of my favorite regions in California, Santa Barbara County. This 2014 Lucas & Lewellen Merlot ($82) is 100% Merlot. This Merlot has an inky taste to it with a subtle smokey and vanilla flavor. This wine isn’t a classic Merlot in style or taste, yet is fun for something a bit different, and unusual from what we normally find in a Merlot. Purchase online at Lucas & Lewellen here.
Another Merlot at the accessible price of $15 is the J Lohr 2015 Merlot from Paso Robles. With whole berry fermentation and a generous amount of Malbec, this Merlot has bright fruit flavors sharing a rich, full body taste with a long finish. And how can you beat the price at $15 from the well known and adored J Lohr family. Purchase online for $15 at J Lohr here.
Thanks to the various brands for partnering with me on this post providing wine samples for tasting of each of the wines written about in this post. As always, I only write about Wines that I like and want to share with my readers.