I know you would never drink Merlot. So did I... until today.
I tasted Benzinger Merlot 2001, a little wonder.
First it's the best Merlot I ever tasted.
Second, it's a great matured wine.
Third it's about $15 thanks to Sideways.
The color is a deep ruby with a dark brown rim. The nose is the best part. Strong blackberries, coffee, chocolate, delicious. A nose somewhere close to ripe Cab Franc from Loire.
The absence of tannins makes it medium length and the variety doesn't provide for a large structure. Even skinny and light weighted, this boxer scores for clean flavor of dark fruits, restrained coffee and chocolate.
On the Benzinger website, we learn that the vintage was perfect for fruit set and saw a long warm summer allowing good ripening. The heatwave at the end of August pushed ripeness ahead of flavor but by the 9th of September, the weather cooled off allowing flavor development. Near perfect conditions on the field.
The heatwave that California gets during harvest threaten delicate grapes (increasing sugar content with flavor lacking concentration). Now you know why Merlot and Pinot are the underdog and Bordeaux blend will never be that popular.
In the winery, a fermentation of 12-20 days and a maturation of 15 months in French and American oak made the wine. I like the fact that Terry Nolan, the winemaker racked and assembled 60% of the production. Returned to barrel, this blend made the backbone of the final wine.
Good job Terry. If you are visiting Sonoma, forget about Pinot (it's too hot) and stop by to check Benzinger Merlot.