Today's competitive blind tasting was all about Merlot...
Wine 1: Terre Palladiane White Merlot. Veneto, Italy. This is the first White Merlot I've had, and I'm not anxious to try another. The Merlot grape has a sort of delicate flavor to begin with; made like White Zin, it's very watery, with just a touch of pink color. Slightly musky aroma with a medium sweet flavor. A lot of people seemed to enjoy it, though. $10.
Wine 2: 2002 McWilliam's Hanwood Estate Merlot. Southeast Australia. Bright and slightly sweet, tart with a bit of plum flavor. Really enjoyed this one. $11.
Wine 3: 1999 L'Ecole 41 Columbia Valley Merlot. Washington. Dark cherry aromas and flavors, good fruit and slightly sweet. Not bad, but not spectacular. $33.
Wine 4: 2002 Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Merlot. Columbia Valley, Washington. I've had this before, and it's a big wine. Softer now than when I first tried it, but still deep and dark with solid fruit flavors. $20.
Wine 5: 2000 Chateau Siaurac Lalande-de-Pomerol. Bordeaux, France. From the right bank, this is a combination of Merlot and Cabernet Franc with a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon. Herbal nose, strong tannins. Would probably survive for quite a while longer in the cellar. $19.
Wine 6: 1999 Artesa Napa Valley Merlot. California. Great dark fruit aromas and fresh strawberry flavors. Good little wine. $19.
Wine 7: 2002 Toad Hollow McDowell Vineyard Reserve Merlot. Sonoma, California. Dark cherry flavors, a bit of sweetness, with a delightfully soft finish. Enjoyed this, but I prefer the lower-end offerings from this winery. $20.
Wine 8: 2002 Eyzaguirre Merlot. Colchagua Valley, Chile. A wine that comes wrapped in a burlap sack for safe transport. I found this wine almost like Beaujolais, but not sweet. Very soft and delicate, with almost no tannins. Fun little wine. $10.
Wine 9: 2001 Zenato Merlot. Delle Venezie, Italy. Dark cherry, short finish. Showing a bit of age. $20.
Wine 10: 2003 Bogle Merlot. California. Almost French tasting. Crisp tannins on the front, but softens out. Very well rounded. $12.
Wine 11: 2003 Bianchi Particular Merlot. Mendoza, Argentina. Not much of a nose, and a short finish. Well rounded, but not worth the price in my opinion. $30.
Wine 12: 2003 Domaine La Milliere VDP. Vaucluse, France. An off aroma--there's something like licorice that I can't quite put my finger on. Huge tannins in this wine. $13.
Wine 13: 2002 Blackstone Napa Valley Merlot. California. Definitely a step up from the standard Blackstone line. This has great sour cherry flavors and firm tannins. Would love to try this in a couple of years. $18.